Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not everything is a conspiracy

Members of the Baodiao movement approach JCG vessels
A number of factors make it unlikely that Ma tried to exploit the dispute to distract the public from a growing corrpution scandal at home 

While it would be tempting, given the timing, to see a conspiracy in last week’s flare-up involving Taiwanese fishermen, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) vessels and Japanese patrol ships near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as Senkaku in Japan — there probably was less to the incident than meets the eye, and it is unlikely the embattled government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could have used it to divert attention from a mounting corruption scandal. 

The skirmish, during which People’s Republic of China (PRC) flag-carrying members of the Baodiao (Defend the Diaoyutais) movement, escorted by five coast guard ships, came within 740m of the islets — well within the 12 nautical miles (22.22km) exclusion zone set by the Japanese Coast Guard — happened at an opportune moment for Ma, whose administration is struggling with a snowballing corruption scandal surrounding former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世). 

For a short while, media turned their attention to the standoff and it looked like Ma and his Cabinet would get a bit of a break. However, no sooner had the god-sent hiatus begun than new revelations were made in the Lin case; soon enough corruption, not disputed islets, was again the talk of the town. 

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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