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Is Communist China Executing a Slow-Motion Media Takeover of Taiwan?

Asia watchers keep a close eye on the communist People's Republic of China's relationship with Taiwan for signs of trouble and trends in the region. The United States switched formal recognition from Taiwan -- formally, the Republic of China --  to the communist Beijing government in 1979, yet backs Taiwan's security and supplies it with advanced weapons for its self-defense. Its only real security threat is mainland China, while China's military strength lags far behind its economic strength. Taiwan has stood as an economic powerhouse and beacon of democracy in an authoritarian region for more than half a century. Since the days of Chiang, mainland China has sought to re-capture Taiwan either by force of arms or force of world diplomacy.

Or, maybe, Beijing has changed its strategy to one centered on the force of media. The Examiner reports that Taiwan's popular Next Media is about to be sold to China-based business baron Tsai Eng-Meng. Tsai is one of China's richest men, and has deep connections to the communist government. Next Media are best known outside Taiwan for their wonderfully wacky animations of U.S. political and media stories. A free press, plus Taiwan's unique position in the world, help make those animations possible. The purchase deal would give the tycoon Tsai 50% control of Taiwan's print media industry. Through his conglomerate Want Want media, Tsai already controls a major swath of the island's cable and TV outlets. Purchasing Next Media would make him a major media force.

The proposed deal is so huge, and such a concern given Tsai's ties to Beijing, that it has already caused Taiwan's press freedom rating to fall. According to Taiwan Today, "Taipei City-headquartered Want Want China Times Group’s purchase of the Taiwan operations of Hong Kong-based Next Media Ltd. has given rise to concerns among certain groups about the establishment of a media monopoly." An editorial in the Taipei Times calls Want Want media a "cancer." The editorial, which blasts Noam Chomsky for getting involved in island-mainland politics, also calls Want Want "vicious" and "totalitarian." According to the Times:

The group is a repeat offender, orchestrating print media and the airwaves it controls to launch ad hominem abuse against whoever stands in its way. It spares no one, dedicating entire pages in its newspapers and hours on its news and TV talk shows crucifying media watchdogs, government employees, professors and young students. It bends the truth, fabricates information, mistranslates comments or uses them out of context, threatens lawsuits, insults and resorts to systematic character assassination.

It also unleashed vile minions, such as CtiTV Washington bureau chief John Zang (臧國華), to interview the MIT professor — the same Zang who, in early 2009, literally stalked former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), when she was in New York, forcing hotel management where she was staying to expel him and necessitating the intervention of umbrella-touting Taiwanese-Americans to protect her.

The above incidents alone — and they are rife — are sufficient to demonstrate that Tsai’s media empire will not engage in responsible journalism, a key component of any healthy democratic system.