Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Chen's Washington Post interview

Chen Shui-bian's recent interview (registration required) with the Washington Post has been misinterpreted by both the Post and CNN Online. Both news services interpret Chen's comments as "press[ing] for independence" (CNN) or "press[ing] ahead with an aggressive agenda to develop Taiwan as an 'independent, sovereign country' despite the risk of war with China" (Post article by Philip Pan and David Hoffman). CNN Online begins its story (almost wrote "sortie") with the following mis-lead:
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Chen Shui-bian says he has been given a mandate to press for Taiwan's independence from China despite a razor-thin margin in his hotly-disputed re-election.

Chen has vowed to proceed with plans to write a new constitution, developing Taiwan as an "independent, sovereign country" despite the risk of war with China, he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Actually, in the interview transcript, Chen said nothing of the sort. In fact, when discussing the new constitution that he wants to develop, he specifically said, "It is not a timetable for independence or any attempt to change our status quo." He later stressed,
These issues [legislative reform, protection of human rights, possible adoption of a three-branch government, and other issues related to constitutional reform] do not have any bearing on the independence or unification issue, nor will the constitutional reform effort violate our "five no's" commitment and pledge.

The Post cites this statement in its article on the interview, but buries it down in the seventh paragraph, after characterizing Chen's agenda as "agressive" and his remarks as "defiant." (The Post also summarizes this idea rather than quoting Chen directly; they thus "water down" the strength of his statement.) The CNN Online article, written in part by Mike Chinoy (who is often perceived here as pro-Beijing), doesn't mention the above quotation at all.

The phrase "independent, sovereign country" that the Post and CNN have jumped on in order to raise alarms about Chen comes from a statement he made in response to a question about China's "one China" principle. Chen argued that the one China principle is not settled from the perspective of the people of Taiwan because the PRC's "One China" can only refer to the PRC itself, and Taiwan is not part of the PRC. Chen continued, saying that
For the 23 million people of Taiwan, whether our country is called Taiwan or the Republic of China, it doesn't change the fact that we are an independent, sovereign country. We are not a local government of another country.

So this is the status quo. We want to maintain this kind of status quo. We certainly don't want Taiwan's current status quo to be changed unilaterally.

I believe Taiwan or the Republic of China is an independent, sovereign country. Even Mr. Lien and Mr. Soong in this campaign did not dare deny it. They don't dare say we are not a country. I think we have reached an internal consensus that insists on Taiwan being an independent, sovereign country. I think only Beijing cannot accept the fact that the Republic of China or Taiwan is an independent country.

As Chen notes, Lien and Soong have also spoken of the ROC as a sovereign country. After all, they were also running for president of the ROC, not for the position of a local leader of the "Taiwan Province." In the PRC newspapers, "President" is often put in scare quotes when applied to leaders of Taiwan, and some of the US papers (including the Post) imitate China's use of the term "Taiwan leader" (so much for independent thinking). But in Taiwan, we don't put "President" in quotation marks, and whatever disagreements people have over Taiwan's identity, the ROC isn't viewed as just a period in mainland history that ended in 1949. (At least not for the same reasons that the PRC views the ROC as an historical period!)

Now, it is possible for people to quibble with Chen's equivocal use of "Taiwan" and "the Republic of China" when naming the country. Certainly the PRC (and perhaps the pan-blues here) will make an issue out of Chen's slipping in and out of calling the ROC "Taiwan" (or is it calling Taiwan "the ROC"?). It appears Chen himself has raised the issue of what Taiwan/the ROC should be called, through paralepsis, the act of emphasizing something by seeming to quickly pass over it. He seems to dismiss the idea that there's any difference in what the country is called ("whether our country is called Taiwan or the Republic of China"), but by rejecting the difference a name makes, raises the name as an issue.

China has not yet responded to the "naming" issue, but the People's Daily has already responded to Chen's interview in their their best Darth Vader voice: "We have taken notice of Chen's remarks. ... We believe that the massive Taiwanese compatriots have also learned about it." (Makes you wonder who those "massive Taiwanese compatriots" are--are they the folks who go to McDonald's too much?)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Disclaimer: I should probably make the obvious (?) statement here that the views expressed on this blog are in no way meant to be representative of the opinions of Tunghai University, the FLLD, my wife, my officemate, or my dog (although she hides behind an innocent grin, in her mind she explores the mysteries of the universe). This blog also does not represent the views of anyone else who has ever had any physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or virtual contact with me. (I'll check with my lawyer friends to make sure this is enough of a disclaimer--updates as necessary.)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

I've been meaning to mention the blog that Scott Sommers, up the road a piece in Taipei, is maintaining about the political situation here. Being in Taipei, he has more access to what's going on, including the opportunity to spend some time at Saturday's demonstration.

Scott's also got some interesting posts on language policy and the role(s) of English in Taiwan, two topics of interest (to me, anyway!).
Chen's press conference, the 327 demonstration, and 口號

While I was out with some friends this evening, it seems Chen Shui-bian had a press conference in response to a big demonstration by the pan-blues today. CNN's article about the press conference and protest summarizes some of what Chen said but doesn't describe Chen's anger about accusations that he faked the assassination attempt. The article also doesn't mention that the pan-blue protesters numbered about 500,000 (according to the estimates I've seen) and the speakers included former DPP members like Sisy Chen (陳文茜) and Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), as well as 80s rock star Luo Da-you (羅大佑). From what I saw on TV, the demonstration was mostly peaceful, which I was happy to see considering the potential for violence.

I'd like to collect some of the slogans (口號) that have been used during the protest--both English and Chinese ones. I was especially curious about the English sign that was shown behind the speakers at today's demonstration: "Democracy is Dead." The protesters today also carried placards symbolizing the death of democracy. (This image is from an article in the People's Daily of the PRC!) I'm wondering if this slogan has its roots in the antiwar protests in the U.S. (see this image as an example) or if it has been circulating in Taiwan for longer than that. It was evidently also used by protesters against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Kungliao back in 2001. I'm interested in the "circulation" of this slogan in international contexts--how it has been used, both seriously and ironically, in various statements, protests, etc. I did a Google search and find it has been used a lot in reference to the US war on Iraq; an earlier use comes from a 1995 news release by a pro-gun group regarding gun legislation in Canada. If you find any earlier references, let me know...

Primary and secondary rhetoric and the study of ancient Chinese rhetoric

Thanks to a citation by John Logan in the winter 2004 Rhetoric Society Quarterly, I'm finally getting around to reading George A. Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times. Logan cites Kennedy's book as an example (and an influential one, at that) of "the increasingly dominant understanding of the Fifth Century BCE as a predominantly oral culture" and of rhetoric as primarily an oral practice (quotation from Logan's abstract). Kennedy divides rhetoric into "primary rhetoric" and "secondary rhetoric". He described primary rhetoric as follows:

Primary rhetoric is the conception of rhetoric as held by the Greeks when the art was, as they put it, "invented" in the fifth century B.C. Rhetoric was "primarily" an art of persuasion; it was primarily used in civic life; it was primarily oral. Primary rhetoric involves an act of enunciation on a specific occasion; in itself it has no text, though subsequently an enunciation can be treated as a text. (4)

Kennedy describes "secondary rhetoric" as
the apparatus of rhetorical techniques clustering around discourse or art forms when those techniques are not being used for their primary oral purpose. In secondary rhetoric the speech act is not of central importance; that role is taken over by the text. The most frequent manifestations of secondary rhetoric are commonplaces, figures of speech and thought, and tropes in elaborate writing. (5)

I'm excited about this because I've been trying to understand the focus that Xing Lu puts on oral rhetoric in her 1998 Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric. Lu, in fact, explicitly rejects commentaries or criticism of written Chinese rhetoric early on in her book, arguing that such studies
are limited in ... their interest in written language at the expense of oral speech. Consequently, such studies offer useful information on Chinese language and stylistic writing but fail to identify theories of rhetoric and communication and to offer specific explanations of the cultural and philosophical orientation[s] that affect rhetorical practice. (27)

Lu doesn't cite Kennedy at this point in her book, but that might not be surprising because of the great influence of Kennedy's book on the study of classical rhetoric in the field of speech communication. It appears, then, that Kennedy's division of primary and secondary rhetorics has jumped from discussions of Greek rhetoric to Lu's study of Chinese rhetoric. I'm currently speculating on how appropriate this jump is. My preliminary conclusion is that it isn't entirely defensible.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Just noticed an article in the China Post that reminds those of us in Taiwan that China is watching closely what's going on here--and enjoying what they see. The longer this situation goes on, the more China can point to it and tell the people of Hong Kong that democracy equals chaos.

From what I noticed this morning, the Chinese TV news (on TTV) wasn't wall-to-wall election crisis--they were covering some other things, too. But I haven't had a chance to watch the news today. Too busy!

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The China Post, usually a pro-KMT paper, has an editorial today that suggests that the people of Taiwan need to accept the fact that Chen and Lu won. Although it contains a few suspicious sentences (for example, "The people were shocked by what appeared to be an assassination attempt on the president and the vice president" [my emphasis]), it generally does what Lien/Soong refuse to do: concedes the election.
Last night more news came out that I didn't get a chance to mention. For one thing, the difference between Lien's and Chen's votes was less than 30,000. The number of invalid ballots was over 300,000. So maybe a recount isn't a bad idea.

The Taipei Times has one of their over-the-top editorials about the KMT/PFP reaction to the election. It includes the following gem:
Let us be frank: Today's pan-blues are yesterday's bunch of vicious, thieving, fascistic thugs who raped and looted Taiwan for half a century. They have been trying to give the impression that they are reformed, that they are democrats to the core and during the election campaign we at least tried to believe that this was so, even if we though[t] their policies stank. But last night they reve[a]led themselves in their true colors.
While I agree that the history of the KMT (including Soong Chu-yu's own activities) is pretty bad, this editorial sounds a little too inflammatory to me. But maybe that's the point. The Times has a history of using such language and the editors drag it out whenever there's a conflict between the greens (DPP/TSU) and the blues (KMT/PFP).

I've also seen some disturbing images on the TV news, however, of pan-blue supporters rioting (I can't think of a better word for it) in Taichung, Kaohsiung, and other places. So the Taipei Times' opinion that the pan-blue protest is encouraging violence might not be far from the truth. The kind of response to this situation that went on last night and has continued into today has not been discouraged enough by the pan-blue camp, although Taichung mayor Jason Hu did attempt to calm people down early this morning after they'd trashed the courthouse. Lien Chan and James Soong's "sit-in" (ironically called 靜坐 jing zuo, originally referring to silent meditation, in Chinese) seems to have encouraged a lot of protests that are anything but peaceful. They need to act--and speak--more responsibly if they want to avoid being accused of inciting unrest.

If you're wondering if I'm pro-pan-blue or pro-pan-green, well, I guess I'm moving to being neither at this point. (Actually, I'm color-blind, so that makes me more objective! ;-) ) Maybe we'll be able to figure out my politics as we go along here.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

We live in interesting times in Taiwan. As I walked out of my apartment this evening to buy some tea, all the TVs in earshot were tuned to a speech given by Lien Chan, telling his supporters that he will call for an annulment of the election results. The pro-KMT China Post newspaper in Taiwan has an article up on its website about Lien's speech, and I imagine if this issue isn't settled before the May 20 inauguration, most of the beginning of Chen's second term will be concerned with whether or not yesterday's assassination attempt was real or not. (The preceding link is to a article about Lien's call for a recount.) The pro-DPP paper The Taipei Times also has an article up about this situation.

I'm not going to say what I think about whether the assassination attempt on Chen was real or faked. Political theater, on the one hand, has been part of the DPP's toolbox for a long time. On the other hand, assassination and murder have been part of the KMT's toolbox for a longer time. (So far no one in public has accused the KMT of attempting to kill Chen, I should add.) But this whole situation--especially Lien's call for a nullification of the vote--can contribute to quite a bit of instability in Taiwan in the next few weeks.

CNN has Mike Chinoy on right now (about 9:10 p.m. local time), who is trying to analyze this situation. Chinoy says that a senior DPP advisor told him that Lien's language might incite violence. Chinoy calls this "uncharted and potentially dangerous territory."

So far the people in my apartment building and around my neighborhood seem to be glued to their TVs and relatively quiet. By now the firecrackers that were being set off by the local DPP office nearby on Chong-De Road are mostly quiet. The election commission is on TV now declaring Chen the winner. There was 80% turnout in this election. The head of the commission is saying that the committee is not aware of the details of Lien's demand. "There are certain procedures that need to be followed," he says. We'll see what happens tomorrow...?