May 4th, 2008

In the news ニュース

I spent eight hours this Sunday giving our apartment its monthly top-to-bottom, room-by-room cleaning. Of course here being Taiwan, our white tile floors will no doubt start showing the dirt again from tomorrow.

Before commencing with the 掃除, I took the time over breakfast to read in the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ the latest Taiwan-related column by Tom Plate. Plate has a tendency to write articles that are seemingly sympathetic to Taiwan's predicament, but actually end up looking at the situations to see how best China could benefit. Today's piece, "A chance for Beijing to take a stand on health" is no exception. Plate begins by reporting on the odious decision by the United Nations 国際連合 not to allow Taiwanese journalists to cover the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) 世界保健機関 in Geneva ジュネーヴ on the 19th of this month, and notes that this is due to Chinese pressure:

"(China) views this Taiwan-journalist controversy as just another semi-clever wedge move by T'aipei (Taibei) 台北 to nail down the island's image as a permanently political entity separate and distinct from the mainland. Its strong feelings on the subject are well known to the U.N.'s Department of Public Information, which has enough problems on its hands without trying to take on Beijing by accrediting the Taiwan journalists."

This paragraph is then followed by one that, on the surface, appears to take the Taiwan's side in this issue:

"Even so, China and the U.N. are wrong on this issue, and the Taiwan journalists are right. Indeed, the latter is the strongly held view of almost every journalist I know, of the International Press Institute, of the prestigious and professional global network of editors, of the media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, and of the massive International Federation of Journalists. I could bore you by running through the details in the various clauses of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 世界人権宣言 (such as Article 19, or Article 2), which lean toward the journalists, but instead, let's appeal directly to Beijing, the U.N. and — most of all — to good old common sense."

And here where it begins. Plate's argument is that knowledge is the key when it comes to improving the overall health situation of every person on this planet, and that by pressuring the U.N. to bar Taiwanese journalists from reporting on the WHA, everyone will suffer in the long run. But rather than pile on the well-deserved criticism that Beijing should be receiving over its actions, Plate ducks the issue:

"(China's) own public-information health record is less than exemplary. Beijing knows this, so let's not rehash the mainland's SARS 重症急性呼吸器症候群 and AIDS 後天性免疫不全症候 performance."

Which begs the question: Why not? Wouldn't pointing out China's less-than-honest efforts in the common fight against killer viruses bolster the claim to allow in Taiwanese reporters? Instead, Plate looks for some way to pat China on the back:

"...Beijing deserves credit for its recent cozy overtures to the newly elected government of Taiwan's Ma Ying Jeou (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九. And, for his part, this dashing candidate of the Kuomintang (Guomindang) Party 中国国民党, which favors non-antagonistic relations with the mainland, has made it clear that he favors much warmer and closer ties with the Beijing behemoth."

Plate seems to have a thing for Ma. In a previous article, he called him "debonair". Here, Ma is "dashing" 英詩颯爽. Hmm...Anyway, Plate then goes on, as usual, to advise the Chinese on the best way to dig themselves out of the hole they've put themselves into:

"This is a golden opportunity for Beijing to make a grand and above-the-commonplace gesture, reverse its policy of opposing Taiwan journalists' accreditation in the interest of world public health, and look to the rest of the world like the reasonable government it can be when it actually wants to be reasonable. Besides, give the new guy Ma the sense of a small victory, and his new government may surprise Beijing with what it gets in return. And even if the Ma government — just now getting its act together — does blow the opportunity, it will look even better in the eyes of world public opinion."

Amazing. Instead of what should be a simple right vs. wrong argument, Plate manages to see an opportunity to bring Taiwan further into the mainland's clutches. China can look "reasonable", and Ma can appear to be defending Taiwan's interests, and it should all be to Beijing's benefit in the long run. We learn how Ma can come off smelling good, but no mention is made as to what would be in the best interests of Taiwan. And that would be either membership in the WHO, or at the very least, observer status in the WHA, for this island. Anything less means excluding Taiwan from measures to improve "the common health of mankind" that Plate is seemingly so concerned about. Instead of urging the U.N.'s "embattled" Department of Public Information to stop "kowtowing" 三跪九叩頭の礼 only on the issue of giving press credentials to Taiwanese journalists, he could (but doesn't, of course) urge the entire U.N. not to bend to China's desire to exclude this island from important international organizations. THAT would be the "healthy political development" that Tom Plate refers to at the end of his piece of tripe.