China · Taiwan

Questionable NY Times article on mainland students in Taiwan

The NY Times also ran an article on mainland students studying in Taiwan in late July. The article focused mostly on mainland students and their opinion of Taiwan. Not surprisingly, it was all mostly positive, with mainlanders praising everything from the Internet to political placards to the state of old buildings. When I first read it, I thought it was decent, but after reading it again, there were several issues that made it very biased and pro-Taiwan.

First off, the stated figure of over 1000 mainland students studying for degrees here is dead wrong, because it’s only 928, which leads to the second problem.

Second, the opinion that this policy is a success is not really accurate, because not only were the number of students low, but it was less than half that of the limit, which the article omitted to mention- 2000. From the mainland students’ and schools sides, it can be seen as a success because there were no major problems, such as misbehavior or conflicts. The low number of students, which the article fails to mention, also makes it hard for them to influence society in mainland China, which the writer describes and quotes people saying as being a possible benefit of the program.

Third, the article is chock-full of quotes from mainland students, mostly praising Taiwan’s politics. While the writer did a good job to get these students to make such bold statements, most of whom gave their names and ages, she didn’t do a good job of presenting any criticisms or negative opinions.

The last point is the main reason I didn’t like this article. It paints a picture of Taiwan being a paradise for the mainland students, awestruck over everything from the Internet to a politician “shouting his thanks” in a van at passersby, but there is not a single critical opinion from these students. Taiwan is so great and everything is an eyeopener for these students, is the subtle undertone of the article. The writer then states that students might not want to return to China, which is her own opinion and not backed up by any fact, and even if they can’t stay in Taiwan, they will go elsewhere. The last paragraph continues this subtle anti-China message, with a student talking about going overseas, then saying that his parents also want to move abroad.  I’m not saying that some of the things the students said about Taiwan are untrue, for instance- the Internet is faster and more open, and there is democracy, but the problem is the article is so onesided and omits any criticism of Taiwan or the policy that it presents a very biased view. Unfortunately, that’s how many stories in the media about China are these days.


One thought on “Questionable NY Times article on mainland students in Taiwan

  1. Interestingly, I think these reasons are exactly what make it a relatviely successful NYT piece. The careful and purposely arrangements of the quotes and the prescriptions of meaning and impacts of this program do well to shore up that ‘subtle anti-China’ message, which is meant to be conveyed on NYT’s platform.

    Nonpartisan media is a myth, an unattainable noble dream. The irony is that, when the myth of an unbiased media permeats, the mass at the receiving end will buy into the information fed to them without critical thinking, perhaps especially so with a powerful media house such as NYT and its alikes.

    A Chinese (PRC) person won’t find it flattery, I guess, and is likely to find these kind of subtle biases irksome. Besides I do wonder what the students who have their names on it will be thinking of the piece, and making of the ‘manipulation’ of their quotes. But think it this way, no one can live on others’ mercy – attempts to beg for fair treatments from others will prove futile. Continuous self-developing and -strengthening will be the only solution, but even then, haters will hate and naysayers will be pointing fingers – just that by then what they think or say will be mattering much much less.


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