A Modern Day Don Quixote On Yu Ying-shih』s Fax About Acquisition Of Next Media (Taiwan)
by Zhang Haipeng(張海鵬)
Director of Taiwan Historical Studies Centre, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
On Nov.28, Liberty Times in Taiwan reported that Yu Ying-shih(余英時),who currently lives in the USA and is an academician at Taiwan』s Academia Sinica, sent a fax to the student-led Anti-media Monopoly Movement in late November, expressing his strong opposition to the takeover of the Next Media (Taiwan) outlets by conglomerate tycoons. Yu Yin-shih』s opinion against the purchase caused quite a stir in Taiwan and was welcomed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Yu Yin-shih is a venerable historian, and it is truly inspiring that he has voiced deep concerns over things happened in Taiwan.
Acquisition of Next Media (Taiwan) is a business deal, a purely commercial transaction, and it』s common in the media industry. What makes a professor of history, who is residing in the USA, so angry about a common commercial transaction?
According to news reports by Taiwan』s United Daily News on Nov.28, after many delays, Hong Kong Next Media Ltd. signed a contract in Macao in the early morning of Nov.28 to sell its Taiwan print and television operations. Five investors, including Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo, Jr.(辜仲諒),Formosa Plastic Group chairman William Wang(王文淵) and Want Want China Times Group President Tsai Shao-chung(蔡紹中), will become the new owners of Next Media (Taiwan). The other members of the buyers』 group are David Lee(李世聰),chairman of Lung Yen Life Services Corp., and Steve Lee(李泰宏),chairman of Taiwan Fire & Marine Insurance Co.. Liberty Times believes neither Lung Yen Life Services nor Taiwan Fire & Marine Insurance has investment in mainland China.
The deal has not been finalized and is subject to approval by Taiwan』s regulators and Hong Kong Next Media 』s shareholders. However, some college students in Taiwan staged protests against the purchase, asking Taiwan authorities not to grant approval. And Professor Yu Ying-shih sent fax in support of student protests, it was just like pouring oil on the fire.
Prof. Yu mentioned in the fax that the reason he is against the acquisition, by claiming that 「Communist China is paralyzing the people』s aspirations in Taiwan by merging Taiwan』s news organizations through Taiwanese businessmen in a flagrant way." And while answering Liberty Times reporter』s telephone interview, he said, 「The matter is serious, because almost the entire Taiwan media industry is bought by Taiwanese businessmen based in China. All of these people are making money in China. 」 He also said, he 「cares about Taiwan and doesn』t want to see Taiwan falls into the hands of communists.」
Among the five buyers of Next Media (Taiwan), three have investments in mainland China, and are commonly called 「Taiwanese businesspeople.」 Taiwanese businessmen make money and feedback to Taiwan, that』s exactly what Taiwan needs. Isn't it? Taiwanese businesspeople who repatriates profits made in mainland China is what amounts to the inflow of mainland capital?
The notion that 「Taiwanese businesspeople equal to mainland capital」 is both funny and annoying. What evidences can Academician Yu produce to establish such an linkage? His assertions has absolutely no basis whatsoever. Evidence is the base of all scientific claims, and historical studies rely on two fundamental principles, namely dual attestation and that uncorroborated evidence will not stand. Without sufficient evidence any conclusion is meaningless, and it is a common sense in historical studies. Prof. Yu doesn't know it? Not even a single evidence can he produce to prove the 「Taiwanese businesspeople equal to mainland capital」 claim. If Prof. Yu』s argument holds, that is, China-based Taiwanese businesspeople are agents of mainland China capital, how large is hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese businessmen capital in total? Isn't it enough to buy the whole Taiwan!? It is pretty hard for us to accurately assess total Taiwanese investment capital in mainland China. General estimate is that there are eighty thousand Taiwanese listed companies in mainland, with a total of US$100 billion investments as of December 2007. And some experts in Taiwan, basing on money remitted from Taiwan to mainland China, conclude that Taiwanese investments in China are about US$150 billion. According to statistics from Taiwan economic affairs authorities, a total of US$13.1billion investments to China was approved in 2011. With that large capital investments, plus the profits generated through many years and production expansion, is it possible to calculate the total value of Taiwanese businessmen』s fixed assets in mainland China? I have absolutely no idea.
According to China』s Ministry of Commerce, cross-strait trade in 2008 reached US$129.22 billion, up 3.8% from 2007. For the year, China exported US$25.88 billion in goods to Taiwan, a 10.3% jump from a year earlier. Meanwhile, China』s imports from Taiwan totaled US$103.34 billion, increasing by 2.3% year on year. China』s trade deficit with Taiwan was US$77.5 billion. In other words, Taiwan』s trade surplus with China stood at US$77.5 billion.
Statistics have proved that mainland China is Taiwan's largest trade partner and export market, the most important source of Taiwan' economic growth engine. As early as in 1994, the statistics from the Securities and Exchange Commission under Taiwan』s Ministry of Finance indicated that among Taiwanese listed companies investing in mainland China, the number of profitable companies and their profits increased significantly. The greater profitability in China-based Taiwanese firms made more contributions to the earnings of their parent companies accordingly. A survey of Taiwan』s Ministry of Economic Affairs showed, more than 90% of the enterprises which have firmly taken rooted in Taiwan could make profits from their investments in mainland China.
There is a growing trend that Taiwanese businessmen have been repatriating profits from China to Taiwan. In early 2012, an analysis of Taiwan's economic affairs authorities reported that, the investments in China by Taiwanese firms have become an important source of income for their parent companies in Taiwan. According to the statistics, over the first three quarters of 2011 Taiwanese listed and OTC companies recognized mainland China total revenue of NT$118.3 billion, including repatriation of Taiwan's total investment earnings of NT$13.6 billion; accumulated income remitted back to Taiwan reached NT$112 billion over the years. Taiwanese businesses remitted money back to Taiwan, just the 2011 first three quarters reached NT$13.6 billion, over the years the money remitted back to Taiwan was valued at NT$112 billion. What a huge economic gains! How many newspapers like Next Media newspapers or channels can be bought with the money? Who would believe that the money is 「Mainland Capital」? If the money is Mainland Capital, why would the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) need to discuss repeatedly about 「Mainland Capital to invest in Taiwan」 project?
Academician Yu claimed that 90% of Want Want China Times Group's revenue came from mainland China, and it was obvious that 「China is buying Taiwanese media through Taiwanese businesspeople」. As mentioned above, even though 90% of the Group』s revenue come from mainland China, can you make a judgment that considers Want Want China Times Group as Mainland Capital? Can you make a judgment that mainland China attempts to control Taiwanese media by the acquisition plan of the Want Want China Times Group? If this theory holds, how many Taiwanese media might have been bought with repatriated funds of NT$112 billion over the years?
If all Taiwanese businessmen were funded by the mainland Chinese capital, public officials under former presidents Lee Teng-hui（李登輝), Chen Shui-bian（陳水扁）and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have all been fools, and issues like "Taiwan Independence," "Independent Taiwan," "One Country on Each Side" and "1992 Consensus" are of nothing more than symbolic significance. Even if Taiwanese businessmen were dependent on China's capital resources, China-based Taiwanese businessmen are able to remit the money they make on the mainland to support the DPP party（民進黨）and the Liberty Times（自由時報).The fact that many DPP party members are doing business in China has never softened the DPP』s insistence on 「The Resolution on Taiwan』s Future」. The Liberty Times is still promoting the idea of Taiwan Independence. Not long ago, Frank Hsieh（謝長廷） made a controversial trip to China, and his party has yet to respond positively to his trip.
In light of these facts, Yu Ying-shih』s recent statements about Chinese encroachment on Taiwan media are pure sensationalist propaganda. 「Communist China is paralyzing the people』s aspirations in Taiwan by merging Taiwan』s news organizations through Taiwanese businessmen in a flagrant way," said Dr. Yu. I would like to ask this: Which news organization is being taken over by China? 「The Liberty Times」 or 「The China Times」?
Yu Ying-shih says, 「Taiwanese businessmen in China are buying out news media in Taiwan, and they are making money in China.」 Besides the pending trade of the Next Media, can Mr. Yu point out any other news organization in Taiwan was merged by Taiwanese businessmen who are making big money in China? If so, members of the DPP or anyone who defends the freedom of press in Taiwan can sue.
Yu Ying-shih seems to care about the freedom of press in Taiwan. Has Taiwan suffered any setbacks in press freedom after becoming a democratic society? Newspapers in Taiwan have enjoyed more freedom after late president Chiang Ching-kuo（蔣經國）lifted martial law in 1987. News media in Taiwan demonstrate diverse opinions that are pan-blue, pan-green, or orange but never red. Is there any news organization that has altered its political stance after being merged by Taiwanese businessmen who make money in China? The answer is no. But just as before, in Taiwan』s democratic society, there will always be voices to criticize Ma Ying-jeou, Chen Shui-bian, the Communists or the principle of 「One Country, Two Systems."
「Communist China is using Taiwanese businessmen to buy media so it can paralyze Taiwanese aspirations,」 「Taiwan's media are almost bought up by Taiwanese businessmen who are making money in Mainland China,」 and 「(he is) concerned about Taiwan, unwilling to see Taiwan fall into Communists' hands,」 all these are Mr. Yu's slick rhetoric to attract publicity. He is like a modern Don Quixote who heroically launches an attack. But he has no real target, so the attack produces no real effect. Mr. Yu holds an anti-communist view, and he has right to do so. All kinds of criticism should be based on truth. He criticizes Taiwanese businesspeople for receiving funding from Chinese Communist Party but provides no evidence, he will only hurt himself. Is it good for a distinguished history professor to attack those businesspeople with strong anti-communist ideology?
I do not doubt that Yu Ying-shih is concerned about Taiwan. But he said that Taiwanese businessmen are taking Chinese money, and those who participate in buying Next Media are controlled by Chinese Communist Party, 「they are buying Taiwan's media for paralyzing Taiwanese aspirations completely.」 Can this kind of threatening rhetoric be regarded as caring about Taiwan? Can it protect the freedom of the press in Taiwan?
Since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's leader in 2008, due to the "five visions" of Hu-Lien meeting in 2005 had been written into Kuomintang's party program, and the Taiwan authorities recognized the 「1992 consensus」, the cross-strait relations have shown significant progress. Economic, personnel, and cultural exchanges are more frequent, cross-strait relations appear more stable than ever. However, the international economic crisis is not over, Taiwan's economic development is still in difficulty. Taiwan businessmen in mainland China are actively saving Taiwan's economy. They remitted back their profit to Taiwan, to reverse Taiwan's economic downturn. Is it wrong for doing so? If we love Taiwan, we should support Taiwan businessmen operating in mainland China, rather than paint them red and discourage their efforts for economic development.
It is quite normal for us to express different views of a social event. I am not opposed to Academician Yu Ying-shih's expressing of his view on the trade of Next Media. However, whether to support or not, his view should be based on truth, especially for a historian like him. If Mr. Yu Ying-shih should keep his political ideology at bay when he speaks, otherwise his reputation as a renowned historian will be badly hurt.