International news coverage of Taiwan


Why is the bar so low? Why does the reporting always need to be so tedious and pedestrian? Take for instance this piece by the Economist:

What an opening line! And the rest of the write-up is similarly enthralling. Compare this to the generally witty reporting on Britain, Europe or the US the Economist is well-acclaimed for.

Although the facts are generally there, their interpretation is quite shallow and superficial. Hokwongwei’s excellent analysis would be much more in place there instead of this article. And, while some discussion of China’s possible reaction is justified given the unresolved sovereignty issue, for some articles including this, it seems like every mention of “Taiwan” must be followed with a “balancing” reference to “China.” Here, I’ve actually done the count and it ends up in a draw: Taiwan-China 8:8. But this is an article about Taiwan, and the Economist already has an extensive coverage of China with its own, dedicated section.

Another example is the today’s editorial from the Guardian, which is actually supposed to be about Hong Kong but then swerves into Taiwan:

It just strikes me as incredibly naïve to write something like that. I can’t believe anything even remotely similar would be allowed to appear in an editorial concerning Europe or America.

These are just the two recent examples of what I see as a general paucity of decent coverage, especially conspicuous when compared to the abundance of quality reporting on the stand-off in Hong Kong. Is this your impression too? Or perhaps there is better reporting, just elsewhere (links much appreciated)?


No I agree with your conclusions, turgid regurgitated crap usually prefaced with ‘split off in 1949’ blah blah blah.


Don’t get me started on “pro-independence DPP” and “pro-unification KMT.” Those are the most shallow, intellectually lazy ways to describe these two parties, and they’re almost entirely misleading. And yes, I’ve been consistently disappointed by the Economist, otherwise my favorite paper, whenever they briefly lend their attention to Taiwan.

It’s just… not a newsy place, by foreign bureau standards. AP, AFP, and Reuters used to have a reasonable presence here, but my understanding is that they’ve been down to a skeleton crew pretty much since shortly after Ma Ying-jeou took office. (I could be wrong; that’s just my understanding!) I believe Forbes, WSJ, and BBC all rely on freelances here rather than post anyone long-term. NY Times has a reporter here, but he’s only stationed here because he got kicked out of China – his focus is still Beijing.

I think what it is is a perfect storm of little happening in Taiwan, a lot happening elsewhere, and belt-tightening all around as the media profession becomes less and less lucrative. That means personnel cuts and reporting the news that will bring in that golden calf of performance indicators – website hits. Taiwan regrettably isn’t on most people’s maps. There is almost no chance of war and little foreign investment here, so while flipping control of the government in less-populous but better-known European countries will make headlines, in Taiwan people will just look at it and think “so what?” Unfortunately it just adds to the (possibly accurate) feeling that this is an unimportant backwater country that is too inwardly focused to be a part of the world.

The other thing is that newswriters want to tell a simple story. "Long-time ruling party with roots in authoritarianism that has failed to implement sufficient transitional justice that believes Taiwan is a part of China but China refers to the ROC not the PRC cedes major cities to previously poorly organized opposition party still struggling to overcome legacy of presidency plagued by corruption and bickering over renaming things that believes that Taiwan is a separate country from the PRC but no longer expressly advocates changing its name to show that " does not make an attractive headline. Taiwan’s situation is far too complex for casual readers to gain any real understanding through a simple report or two, and most reporters aren’t interested in doing the intellectual legwork involved in flushing it all out. You’ll see that reporters are just as lazy when they write about other complex nations like Israel (yes, it gets a lot of coverage, but nobody goes into the complexities of everything). I think the attitude is “those who get it will get it; those who don’t will just see a story about rocket fire.”

I would love to help change this situation, but unfortunately all my applications to AP and AFP seem to have gotten lost in the mail. :smiley:


Some good posts here. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see news wire pieces on Taiwan begin with “Taiwan, which was ceded in perpetuity by China in 1895…” or “Taiwan, which the US handed over to the Chiang Kai-shek regime in 1945…” or “Taiwan, which has been holding free elections at all levels since 1996…” :stuck_out_tongue:

On the other hand we have been seeing some more nuanced reporting coming from some international agencies. One example is Cindy Sui’s work for BBC. There might actually be grounds for hope.



News always gets things wrong. Be grateful they don’t confuse Taiwan with Thailand.


I am going to graduate soon so I’ve been sending tons of resumes to many companies abroad to search for a job. More than half of the companies replied to my letters asking me what or where is Taiwan ?


ouch :wink:


Hint: Don’t work for them. They are dumb.



Hint: Don’t work for them. They are dumb.[/quote]
I agree, that’s dumb.


In general, people focus a lot on the national identity part, which is important but can be also quite misleading. The real issue is with the structure of our constitutional law, which favors the benefits of the ruler, whether it’s kmt or the democratic (blue and green), as they say.

Our constitutional law protects the privileges of those who hold power (can be any politician or business that has governmental connection), and the problem can only be permanently eradicated by the overall reform/revision of the constitution.

There are right-minded people who are eager to expose the governmental corruption, which remains un-punished.

Whether Taiwan is viewed as a country or a province of China, I think the primary issue is to uplevel people’s living standards here, reform the law. If we’re strong, people will start to recognize us.

Taiwan is obscure and small but our population is half of England. Will people call England small?


Taiwan is weak because the majority of ROC bureaucracy firmly believes that Taiwan belongs to ROC. So over time you get a Theocracy ruling-class that bars the natural aspiration of Taiwanese who can make Taiwan a proper state just like any other decent state.

The text of the ROC Constitution itself is not the core of the problem, since the text of ROC constitution correctly constitutes the ROC institutions. Rather, It is the relation, the hierarchy, the pecking order between Taiwan and ROC that need to be correctly reversed.

If there is a way to impress upon the ROC bureacracy that ROC belongs to Taiwan, that the ROC is subordinate to Taiwan, then you’ll start seeing Taiwan’s real national power ( commensurate with its size and advantages) manifested externally.


A Donald tweet prompts me to think Taiwan will see a temporary uptick in international news mentions, mostly snarky in tone.

If Taiwan were to secede from the RoC, what would happen?


Nobody, not even China and US, upholds the RoC. Therefore, no external forces will have means to intervene to save the RoC from being replaced by Taiwan. Taiwan dictates what RoC is and isn’t much like a holding company dictates what its subsidiary company is or isn’t. This is much like Canada dictates what British North America is or isn’t.

The status, the respect, and treatment that Taiwan offers the RoC is much more generous than what the PRC would offer. But then frankly, it’s not even an offer since Taiwan owns the RoC and gets to do what it wants with the RoC.