Thursday, April 29, 2010

China Times Group slams criticism of CCP official’s visit

The Want Want China Times Group went on the offensive on Tuesday after the Chinese- language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) carried a story about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators criticizing a visit by a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official to CtiTV and the “supplicant” manner in which the group’s chairman welcomed the official.

CtiTV, part of the China Times Group acquired by food conglomerate Want Want in November 2008, dedicated an entire hour-long program on Tuesday night, with special guests including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元), attacking the Liberty Times and its president, and alleging that the Liberty Times’ poll center had faked a poll following Sunday’s debate between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.

The Chinese-language China Times continued the offensive with six articles targeting the Liberty Times yesterday, including a front-page story and an editorial.

On its front page on Monday, the China Times quoted Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) as saying during the visit on Sunday: “On behalf of all colleagues at Want Want Group, I welcome CCP Hubei Provincial Committee Secretary Luo Qing quan (羅清泉).”

Luo’s tour included a visit to the CtiTV newsroom.

“After its initial investments in Hubei Province, Want Want Group is confident that investments in Hubei will expand in the future,” Tsai Eng-meng said. “We welcome Luo’s visit here to give us his guidance [蒞臨指導, lilin zhidao] and thank you for your support,” he said.

Luo is leading a 1,000-strong delegation from Hubei to enhance exchanges between his province and Taiwan. The delegation is expected to make more than US$500 million in purchases during the visit, organizers say.

DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said Tsai Eng-meng seemed oblivious to the constitutional status of independent media, adding that the tendency in China to “seek the wisdom” of Chinese officials had no place in Taiwanese media or in a democratic society.

The executive deputy editor at the China Times played down the accusation on Monday night, saying the “seeking the wisdom” reference was polite language. He added that only “bored people” would make a fuss over this.

DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), however, said the language made it very clear that the Chinese were the main objects of dependence, adding that using such vocabulary to welcome Chinese officials was not accidental.

The China Times Group also owns the Commercial Times, the China Times Weekly magazine, Want Daily and China Television Co, which was formerly controlled by the KMT. All have a pro-China editorial line.

In February last year, Want Want signed a preliminary deal to acquire a 47.58 percent stake in Asia Television (ATV) in Hong Kong, which in recent years has been accused of adopting a pro-Beijing line. Tsai Eng-meng is currently locked in a court battle over control of the broadcaster.

The Liberty Times said yesterday it planned to take legal action against the Want Want China Times Group over “groundless accusations.”

The following was cut from the printed version of the article, which appeared today in the Taipei Times.

Want Want also operates hotels in Shanghai, Nanjing, Huaian and Xining.

The Hong-Kong-listed Want Want, whose main market is China but also sells in Taiwan and Hong Kong, has a 51 percent controlling stake in China Times Group.

* * *

What I find worrying about this development is not so much Tsai’s — and his group’s — warm welcome of Secretary Luo. After all, Want Want is heavily invested in China and prostrating themselves before the CCP envoy can only increase their chances of expanding their business there. While fault can be found in this act alone, and while this raises questions about the impact of business interests on the media (a global problem), what really matters is that a senior CCP official is allowed to physically visit a media outlet in Taiwan. Around the same time, a cultural delegation from Hebei, including the province’s top propaganda official, was also visiting Want Want China Times Group media outlets. As Christine Loh pointed out in her magnificent book Underground Front, Tsai’s involvement in Taiwanese and Hong Kong media could be a sign that Beijing’s United Front campaign is now gaining adherents in Taiwan. Add such media to China’s growing global media campaign and the rest of the world can be excused for being misinformed about the realities in Taiwan, given that the voices that dare tell a different side to the story — Taiwan’s side — are becoming weaker and are constantly under assault, as was the Liberty Times in my story. That assault, furthermore, comes both from pro-Beijing media and, as KMT Legislator Alex Tsai’s participation in the televised assault shows us, the government. It may not be a coincidence that the Liberty Times, which as a rule always chose not to fight back or launch lawsuits, is this time around considering doing just that.


Thomas said...

Yes, that is troubling. What I find equally troubling about the complaint of Alex Lai is that he seems to imply that a poll has to be in the ballpark of the poll of a blue-leaning paper in order to be legitimate. Any serious pollster will tell you that polls can be widely different and still be legitimate, and that responses can be influenced by how the questions are asked.

Equally absurd is the fact that Liberty Times was not the only media outlet that showed a win for Tsai.

I am quite suspicious about this media salvo. Immediately after the debate, both the United Daily and the China Times released polls and accompanying stories that implied that Tsai got her ass whipped and the public was now much more in favor of the ECFA. Following this, blue papers and Alex Lai began criticizing the Liberty Times for inaccuracies that are only alleged.

As for Ma, his tone in the last few days is derisive. While I know that it is difficult to get diverse interests to cooperate with each other, I do think we are witnissing a wide-spread attempt to discredit ECFA opponents rather than an attempt to respond to their concerns.

The Swift Boat approach works. Is that what we are seeing now?

Thomas said...

Put a different way:

TVBS: 34 percent said Tsai did better in the debate.
Liberty: 44.2 percent said Tsai did better.
(Difference 8.2 percent)

TVBS: 34 percent said Tsai did better in the debate.
China Times: 28.1 percent said Tsai did better.
(Difference: 5.9 percent)

Can we say that TVBS is obviously biased or that the poll is illegitimate because it differs from United Daily by 6 percent?


ABC News/Wash Post: 54 percent of respondents approve of Obama.

One day later: Pew Research: 47 percent approve of Obama.

(Difference: 7 percent)

Whoa! Stop the presses! I am sensing a suspicious bias. Pew must obviously have fabricated their number.