Wednesday, August 26, 2009

China Post lost in translation

Reading a China Post article recently on Wang Chien-hsuan (王建煊) and his admonishment of Ma's apologies to the people. At first I was shocked at how Taiwan's ombudsman "called on President Ma Ying-jeou to stop apologizing for the delays in helping Morakot victims" and not to "'get on [his] knees and kowtow or make a deep bow lasting for 10 seconds or hug members of the bereaved families anymore'".

I couldn't believe that this was happening, apparently for no reason, but to 'stop apologizing' as the headline said. After further investigation I found that the story had been totally misconstrued by the English writer and his quotes taken out of context. It appears that Wang is telling Ma stop apologizing (for something you didn't do) and get on with it, when in Chinese he was really saying we need to get on with cleaning up after the flood and the President and Premier should be administrating and not concentrating on PR.

I'm not sure of the politics of this one, but this deliberately depicts Wang as callous towards typhoon victims, downplays the tragedy, calling it a tropical rainstorm, and makes it seem like Ma shouldn't be sorry for what has happened. Oh, then again, I guess I am sure of the politics in this one: make Wang the target, downplay Ma's responsibility and pretend it was only a rainstorm. 'nuf said.

I wrote the following hasty letter to the China Post. Hasty because I doubt they will post it:

This story totally misrepresents Mr. Wang's comments. He told Ma and Liu that their time would be better spent working on reconstruction and settlement and that they had to move beyond apologies and think about how to best help the victims of the flood.


He said, "I want to hug and pay my respects to those who lost people in the disaster, but right now Ma and Liu's time is better spent thinking about what we should do in the disaster's aftermath!" [contrast this to the quote from the China Post article above]

His main point was that Ma and Liu 「不能老在那裡臨場反應」 stop reacting to the disaster and start anticipating [how to overcome it].

Your story misrepresents this as Wang telling Ma to stop apologizing (i,.e. he didn't do anything wrong)--when the connotation of Wang's words was that Ma could be of greater help overseeing the bureaucratic process.

Also your characterization of a typhoon and flood disaster as a "tropical rainstorm" downplays the seriousness of this situation and is an insult to the lives lost during this tragedy.

Your translators and editors should be impeached!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A bit more on racism in Taiwan

I was reading Michael Turton's post about the recent story Apple Daily ran regarding AIT employee David Lyon and his alleged sexual exploits with a NCCU student. Not surprisingly, this story blossomed into a warning for all (poor, young, innocent) Taiwanese 'girls' to beware the evil foreigners walking their streets. They are only out to hurt you, take advantage of you and get you into bed, say Apple Daily's experts. Michael's article is excellent but I feel I need to rant on a few more things that strike me as inherently racist and in bad taste about this article:

First, is the use of his name and his linkage to the American Institute in Taiwan. (AIT, for those of you who don't know is the US 'underground' embassy in Taiwan as they cannot have official diplomatic ties.) It's interesting that in other more 'local' stories about this kind of thing, Chinese names are always shielded using titles such as Ms. Wang or Mr. Chen. Poor Mr. Lyon's was not. There were about 5-6 more stories generated from the initial story featuring photos of him having an elevator ride with the woman (gasp!) to quotes from his security guard who told several details about his private life ("he brought home tonnes of girls"). I'm not a lawyer, but the fact that he was not charged with any criminal activity and his name, job and other personal details was blabbed all over the press makes me wonder just how huge a violation of his person rights this all is. Of course, the local woman's rights were protected by a legal notice given to Mr. Lyon preventing him from exposing any racy photos or other details he encountered during the relationship.

Next in annoyances, is expansion of this situation to all foreigners made possible by the recruitment of local experts on foreigners who have done extensive research on the subject. By research of course, we mean girls like "Kelly" who has had relationships with at least 20 foreign guys and has somehow discovered a mathematical formula to derive that 90% of all foreigners in Taiwan are losers. (You'd think she would have gotten sick of foreigners after having 'relationships' with the first dozen.) Of course, this is backed up by another 'expert' Jiang Yingyao who says that 'foreigners see themselves as superior to all women' and warns (poor, defenseless, innocent) Taiwanese girls to beware. I'm looking forward to their next 'joint' paper on "ethnic psychoanalysis through dating".

Finally, the huge lack of logic in the whole thing makes it beyond annoying to me. If you read the chat log posted in the article, this woman is asking for true love after she meets him on (which is pretty much a pickup site, anyway) and goes on camera to chat with him (presumably revealing most of herself in the process). Later she is 'forced' to again have cybersex with him when he logs in from Japan. Poor thing, her legs all up on the table like that. Somehow naked pictures were taken during their trysts, etc. and now she is just horribly violated by this foreigner. Now at what point, I ask you, do you really start thinking 'this guy isn't Prince Charming'. I mean you are a student at Taiwan's #2 university. If 90% of them are all losers, how did this all happen?

This reminds me of a similar story from Canada back in the day. In 1979, a TV show called W-FIVE ran a story called "Campus Giveaway" that cited statistics showing Chinese were taking away opportunities from local Canadians at universities. Chinese Canadians were outraged by this attack and organized (what later became the Chinese Canadian National Council) in order to fight this kind of media discrimination. This resulted in an apology from the network and punitive measures taken against the producers and others involved in the story. No longer could you paint all Chinese with one brush in Canada. They even went on to repeal Canada's head tax and get a huge payout from the Canadian government in reparations.

Of course, in Taiwan, any foreigner involved in activities that concern the organization of alien residents to express an opinion would not only be recognized but in some aspects (such as political or social) be considered illegal and result in deportation. Until such time as Taiwan accepts such bizarre foreign 'international notions' of ethnic equality, gender equity and media ethics, I guess we'll just have to keep those poor, defenseless Taiwanese girls away from the evil foreigners for their own good.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More on Ma

A fellow Canadian blogger has a real good piece on how Ma and his party are spinning the typhoon into China policy. "Our biggest military threat is mother nature?!" I do not have a war of hate on against Ma, but man, it seems something is up with his agenda! The only thing Ma seems really good at doing is turning everything into closer relations with the PRC. The dead bodies from the typhoon aren't even cold and he's canceled Taiwan's national day, revoked its UN bid, and changed the island's military policy into 'search and rescue' instead of security.

Read Michael Cole's write up at The Far-Eastern Sweet Potato

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A letter from a friend

The Taiwan government seems very undecided when it comes to internationalization. In one way they want to consider themselves globalized, yet in the same breath they are scrambling to draft basic agreements on how to deal with other countries that want to offer aid: first, there was no aid requested, then aid was turned down and now they are asking again. Make up your mind.

On a more personal level, a friend wrote me about his personal experience in Taiwan trying to volunteer. Although he speaks excellent Chinese and has international training--his skin color seemed to get in the way.

I realize that there are probably reasons for keeping things Taiwanese only, but how he was rejected as a 'non-Chinese' made quite an impression of how Taiwan deals with its expats. The recent terseness of an important volunteer update on the DPP website makes it clear that "foreign volunteers" should not expect "English language assistance" when trying to help out and that "local relief efforts will run much more smoothly if local governments take the lead."

My friend is not a native English speaker and I have made changes in [editor's brackets] to protect his identity and correct some grammatical errors. Seems that another recent article by a fellow Taiwan blogger hit the point: international studies and political correctness are a North American invention fed by white guilt, but ignorance about the outside world is quite plentiful enough no matter where you are.

Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:33:24 PM
Subject: Re: Mr. Ma and TYphoon Morakot

Thanks for the concern!

I've very mixed feelings about it. I was[...] in Taichung [Saturday] and went from there to Nant[ou], but local authorities just asked me to go back.

Back in Taipei city[,] all international organizations collect money, but reject non [Chinese] helper[s]. I showed them my Maltese cross first aid medic ID license , but they simply said that they got government order[s]...[L]ooking back from [the] 921 experience, there's a huge lack of co-operation between international teams and Taiwanese.

[...] And the green camp?

Well, there was a [post] on facebook by a former DPP legislator. After calling her on [the] phone she just said :"We Taiwanese can help can donate money if you want...thanks for calling..."

I know about oversea[s] Chinese, even PRC [personnel] who assisted the ROC forces, but it seems so long as you don't have a Chinese face you are not [welcome], but your money is [...].

That's my experience here in Taiwan[...] and by the way[,] I donated a few thousand NT$, but I had to ask my Taiwanese girlfriend to do it for me, an [Alien Resident Certificate (Permanent Resident Status)] isn't enough to donate directly to the people inside Taiwan. From outside Taiwan of course a credit card is enough.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mr. Ma and Typhoon Morakot: A Test of Leadership

Taiwan's Good-looking president Ma Ying Jeou (馬英九) has really taken a political beating from the recent damage Typhoon Morakot heaped on Taiwan. From both reading local and foreign press, the typhoon's winds and rain might have brought about a bigger wave of change in public opinion.

Taiwan-based blogger Michael Turton cites an article from the Hong Kong-based SCMP, a newspaper that has traditionally lauded Ma's performance during his presidency:

"To date, the big loser appears to be President Ma. The President, whose origins in the KMT security state and whose apparent indecision, short temper, self-centeredness, and indifference to the fate of his own people is never seen in foreign press depictions, took a beating this time so bad that even the South China Morning Post, usually a KMT cheerleader, was moved to write about it today:

"...A man, who won a promise from Mr Ma to help him locate his missing father, yesterday had to hire a bulldozer with his own money to try to see if his father had been buried by a mudslide in the eastern county of Taitung.

"Mr Lee and his mother broke through a police cordon to demand Mr Ma's help during his inspection tour of the hard-hit county on Monday....Television footage showed an embarrassed Mr Ma telling Mr Lee: 'Now you can see me', after Mr Lee said it taken a huge effort to get close to him.

"...The media also reported that Mr Ma went to a wedding when the typhoon was tipped to hit Taiwan. The media also said a local leader of Mr Ma's Kuomintang hosted a banquet in Kaohsiung on Monday evening to drum up support for the KMT election of central committee members on August 22 as Hsiaolin village was reported to have been buried by landslides.

Turton adds, "In the exchange between Ma and the local villager Ma was nastier than the SCMP indicates here. The man in question had implored Ma, saying that they had all voted for him...and that it was difficult to see him. Ma answered both sarcastically and testily: 'You're seeing me now, aren't you?'"

Ma's performance has also been likened to former vice president Lien Chan's (連戰) nonchalant attitude during the 921 earthquake in 1999 where he was chased out of the disaster area by locals disgusted with his performance. (Interestingly, many credited this incident with Lien's loss during the subsequent elections.) Unlike 921, however, Ma has been further criticized by the fact that he and his cabinet will not issue executive orders for a state of emergency. While Taiwan already has disaster preparedness planning and budget, an executive order from the president might increase foreign donations of aid. so far donations and international support have been minimal with contributions consisting of US$250,000 from the United States and about US$130,00 from Japan.

Ironically, China, who did evacuate thousands of people to safety in time while Morakot loomed, came out looking like the more concerned nation after pledging U$16 million to help Taiwan. In years past, the popularity of Wen Jiabao (溫家寶)skyrocketed, when 'Grandpa Wen' visited thousands devastated by earthquakes in Sichuan and other major disasters. Wen's caring and emotional countenance endeared him to most of the people he visited.

In the foriegn press, Reuters and AFP, news sources also traditionally sympathetic to the president, noted public dissent over Ma's performance during the typhoon. AFP noted "Tempers have flared as desperate relatives have gathered at rescue centers -- police and soldiers Wednesday had to push back people who tried to storm their way on to helicopters heading to the stricken zone" after people were convinced the government was not doing all it could. Many inside the government are accusing Ma of being "too proud" to ask for aid. The Reuter's article quoted a DPP spokesperson as saying Ma's government response has hindered Taiwan's people from recieving the benefit of Taiwan's own substantial search-and-rescue expertise.

Adding to the failure of Ma's government (in public image at least) during the typhoon, the Neihu MRT broke down again today, with allegations that reporters are now being banned from entering to report on it. The leaking and malfunctioning Neihu-Muzha MRT line is compounded with accusations against Ma over the Maokong Gondola, which had to be suspended due to safety concerns last year and smaller project disasters such as the Chiencheng Circle, whose redevelopment Ma commissioned as mayor. When the formerly thriving circle failed to attract the same numbers of customers, Ma then remarked "I can't help if people aren't interested in your products."

Perhaps the typhoon has scratched the coating of Taiwan's so-called Teflon president. Whatever the case, these winds of change have brought unprecendented opportunity for an up-close examination of Ma's performance under pressure.