Mad Chen

Politics, Taiwan

I initially pointed out Jonathan Watts’ awful Guardian UK piece in a comment on Taiwan Matters. But after urging from both Tim and Michael, I decided to sit down and write a letter to the editors of the Guardian.

I have long felt that the biggest problem of media bias” is not the political leanings of the newspaper or the reporter, but the pre-set narratives which determine how stories on any given topic are written. Michael has done a good job over the years of exposing how poorly the Western press frames its discussion of Taiwan. Hopefully it is having an effect, because, as Michael points out, the Washington Post article on the same topic was much better than what we usually get. I used that article in my letter to the Guardian.

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Dear Mr. Mayes,

As a long time Guardian reader, one who depends on the Guardian for a unique and critical voice on international affairs, I was very disappointed by a recent piece on Taiwan. Jonathan Watts’ East Asia Dispatch” for Friday November 24, 2006 toed the Chinese party line with regard to Taiwan reporting, and in doing so made some serious factual errors.

Watts wrote: Chen Shui-bian won the humiliating distinction of clinging on to power today with the support of only one member of the island’s 218-seat parliament.”

But the Washington Post was much closer to the truth when it wrote: President Chen Shui-bian easily survived an impeachment vote in Taiwan’s legislature Friday”

Watts wrote Mr Chen can take no comfort in the manner of his survival. A majority of parliamentarians voted against him. Members of his own party boycotted the vote.”

And again, the Washington Post got it right: The tally indicated that most lawmakers from Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party and the allied Taiwan Solidarity Union remained loyal to the president, despite widespread discontent over the embezzlement scandal, including among his most loyal followers.

Two Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers quit parliament 10 days ago to protest the way the corruption scandals were being handled. But the party threatened to expel any members who cast ballots for impeachment, and with their own political futures hanging in the balance, Democratic Progressive lawmakers closed ranks and all 83 boycotted the vote.”

But perhaps most disconcerting was the framing of the article, in which the democratically elected president of Taiwan is portrayed as a dangerous” loose cannon. As Taiwan blogger Michael Turton put it: China points 900 missiles at Taiwan, but it is Chen who is the dangerous one. Watch out! Mad Chen could do anything! He’s so crazed, he could get a majority opposition legislature to vote for independence!”

I’m far from a major supporter of Chen’s, and I’m often critical of his playing the ethnic card in local politics, but I am sorely disappointed that the Guardian would resort to such hackery in their reporting and it makes me question the quality of Guardian reportage about other countries whose politics I am less familiar with.


Kerim Friedman

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Fax: 020-7239 9997.

Ian Mayes
The Guardian
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