The China Post news staff
Like a cornered animal, the China Times, a long-established, respectable Chinese-language newspaper in Taiwan now owned by the rice cracker manufacturer Want Want Group, has been somewhat indiscriminately lashing back at critics wary of the group’s dogged attempt at acquiring the Next Media Group. It has accused such critics of succumbing to a “China-phobia” instilled in them by the nationalist administration of late President Chiang Kai-shek, even blaming such a mindset for the poor performance of Taiwanese sports teams that have lost to their Chinese counterparts. Of course, an irrational fear of the communist regime and its military and financial power across the Taiwan Strait, as noted by Harvard University historian Yu Ying-shih, may be counterproductive in the country’s current political climate. It could easily be taken advantage of by Chinese authorities or the opposition party. But such an irrational fear is not to be confused with the need to be on guard against China’s intentions or, to put it more bluntly, its designs on Taiwan, whatever they may be.
Wariness about potential media monopolization is legitimate and necessary in all societies, and particularly so in the so-called greater Chinese community, which includes mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, where there are fears that budding democratic institutions, including a free press, are in danger of being nipped in the bud or overwhelmed by politicians, businessmen and journalists courting China’s favor.
To be sure, there has been a semblance of rapport between Taiwan and mainland China and many Taiwan businesses have thrived in mainland China since the two sides opened their territories to tourism and signed various trade accords. People in Taiwan, however, should be reminded that they must not lower their guard against a regime that refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. The Chinese Communists’ victory over the nationalists in the 1946-49 Civil War can be accounted for by, among other factors, their effective use of the propaganda machine and their so-called united-front tactics. Yu was right when he signed a petition intended for President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration that railed against the monopolization of Taiwan’s media. It warned that “some wealthy politicians and businessmen, motivated by their own self-interest, are trying to please Communist China by infiltrating Taiwan institutions wherever possible.” The acquisition of news media is just part of these infiltration attempts, according to Yu, who was once a frequent contributor to the publication but is now a supporter of the “Say No to the China Times” campaign. Yu called on Taiwan intellectuals to come forth and speak out against such businessmen and politicians. Whether or not Tsai Eng, owner of Want Want, is such a businessman, we should give him the benefit of the doubt. His track record, however, does not seem to support the notion that he is an advocate or supporter of free press. According to The Washington Post, Tsai’s pro-China stance is all too obvious. Andrew Higgins of The Washington Post wrote that many critics say Tsai, Taiwan’s third-richest person according to Forbes magazine, has poured much money into using media to attempt to shape opinions, with these views often echoing those of Beijing. When China Times published an article that described China’s top negotiator on Taiwan as “third rate,” the editor was promptly fired. Want Daily, a tabloid Tsai launched in 2009, provides a daily digest of mostly upbeat stories about China and the benefits for Taiwan of closer cooperation, according to Higgins. And then, Tsai also co-owns Asia Television Limited, a pro-China television channel denounced as a shameless Chinese Communist mouthpiece in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.