The United States, with an eye on the rise of China, is supposedly shifting its foreign policy focus back to the Pacific. As it does so, the U.S. should encourage freedom of the press throughout Asia as a part of this Obama strategy pivot.
So why does Obama's State Department remain completely silent as Taiwan, one of our strongest allies in the region, gets pushed toward a media merger deal that would give communist China freshly-purchased power over the independent nation's press?
Want-Want China Times, headed by media tycoon and close friend of the Chinese Communist Party Tsai Eng-Meng, has been seeking approval from Taiwanese regulators for a merger deal that would effectively give it control of half of Taiwan's print media industry. Eng-Meng is already distrusted by the Taiwanese for his close ties to Beijing, and his tendency to use his media empire in Taiwan to advance his own mainland business interests.
Many in Taiwan fear that Eng-Meng, should his proposed media deal succeed, will use his new influence to push Taiwanese public opinion toward unification with the mainland. Students and journalists alike have been protesting for months, but the clock is ticking toward the March 27th deadline. The future of Taiwan's independent media is at stake.
Taiwanese government regulators announced earlier this week that they have received all the necessary paperwork in order to review, and then approve or deny, the merger - but there's the possibility the government will lay down to the big business interests pushing the deal and allow it.
Secretary of State John Kerry, if he and Obama plan to maintain the strong U.S.-Taiwan alliance and reaffirm U.S. support for an independent Taiwan, should publicly urge regulators to shutdown the merger. Such a stand would send a strong signal to Taiwan, to China, and the world that our support for freedom of the press does not stop at the water's edge.