Interesting fan mail

[Re Uneasy crowd control in East China Sea, Sep 19, 2012] I am writing to urge ATOL to correct a long-standing deficiency and recruit a suitable person to represent a Taiwanese view(s) for ATOL. Very clearly the German Kastner is not that person. For some years, Kastner’s articles dominated ATOL coverage on or involving Taiwan. Until recently, his articles were aligned with the Pan-Green movement, a very important segment, if not necessarily the most balanced presentation of Taiwan society. More recently, especially after Pan-Green 2008 shake-up taking the movement to a less confrontational stand towards Beijing, one started to wonder, upon reading Kastner’s essays, whether his alignment with Pan-Green is co-incidental, when they were strongly anti-Beijing.

Since the recent escalation involving the Diaoyu Tai Islands, it became plainly evident that Kastner is quite ready to take an anti-Taiwan line if and when Taiwan aligns with Beijing on any issue. Exhibit A is Kastner’s choice to use the name Senkaku Islands as accepted, referring to China’s and Taiwan’s choice Daiyu Tai or Daiyu Islands only once and pointedly in parenthesis. Such a practice is unheard of in any writings by someone of Chinese origin or from Chinese community. I especially point to news articles in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and North America, most of which are free of Beijing’s control. Which name should be used is perhaps the prerogative of each writer, but an unequivocal preference, as Kastner has shown, is a declaration to the reader which side the author is aligned with.

Curiously, Kastner gave a lot of air to Tokyo’s and Beijing’s positions (if not without bias) and even to Americans. In the whole article there’s hardly any room for any Taiwanese views, “a notion popular with Taiwanese academics lately” was only mentioned so that it could be summarily dismissed by an American pundit associated with the US political and security establishment. To most Chinese observers, there’s already evidently a lot of nudge-nudge-wink-wink between Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong in the recent maritime activities.

China reaps multiple strategic benefits to have Taiwan staking a claim that Diaoyu belongs to China, without distinguishing between PRC and ROC. So China choosing to come to the aid of Taiwan (even without request) if a circumstance presents itself seems to be highly probable. Anyway if such a notion is “popular” within Taiwan, shouldn’t it get a non-judgmental coverage?

Further there are many points that borders on intellectual dishonesty in Kastner’s writing, eg in mentioning the three nations putting putatively non-military assets in the arena, he failed to mention that China’s ships are entirely unarmed (if well equipped) whereas Japan Coast Guard ships spot conspicuous cannons.

He even called China Marine Surveillance (CMS) “paramilitary”. To this date, there’s been no record or even accusation of CMS having committed any violence in their actions. Shouldn’t the label “paramilitary” be reserved for organizations having the means and/or history of killing people and blowing things up?

In Taiwan, the Pan-Green movement is keeping a low profile, as even an independent Taiwan would not forfeit the claim to the Islands. Short of becoming formally a protectorate of Japan, there is simply no scenario that would cede the islands without losing the trust of the vast majority of the Taiwan population. In sum, Kastner’s position is aligned with no one, not even a minority voice of Taiwan.

There’s no other way to describe Kastner other than to say he’s anti-Beijing which in view of current events put him in the anti-Taiwan boat also. His position is not necessarily objectionable in and of itself, and by no means he should be silenced. But it’s a serious problem if ATOL let his voice be the only representation from Taiwan. Considering ATOL enlists several writers representing various segments in Hong Kong and China, even including one or two who can articulate Communist China’s line of thought, why doesn’t ATOL find one or two who would present Pan-Green and Pan-Blue’s views?
C Chin
Hong Kong (Sep 24, ’12)


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