Following the incredible amount of discussion we had here regarding a BBC “From Our Correspondent” column on a heavily stage-managed interview with Japanese PM Aso Fukuda, I think it would be interesting to compare with this Taipei Times “Reporter’s Notebook” column on Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jieu’s press conference given at the Taiwan Foreign Correspondent’s Club. The most obvious difference of course is that Ma, who studied in the United States, is fluent in English and required no interpreter. Also unlike the aforementioned Aso Fukuda interview, this was apparently an actual live press conference, in which reporters were free to ask questions of their choice. However, according to the column, “the tough questions never came.”
Throughout the 90-minute session, Ma’s fluency held up well — but he did stumble on several occasions with figures, reverting to a quick check of the numbers in Chinese with his aides.
Consistent to a fault, however, Ma used the term “mainland” to describe China, so much so that many of the foreign correspondents found themselves employing Ma’s questionable terminology in their questions.
He also made one or two factual errors, such as accusing Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors of offering a reward for anyone who could pelt Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) with eggs during his visit last month, when in fact it was members of the pro-independence group Taiwan Society North.
He did impress by answering questions precisely and comprehensively, except for the terse response to a query on whether he would welcome the Dalai Lama.
Overall, however, the nature of the audience meant that questions focused on international issues, which meant that this reporter — and several others — were left disappointed that Ma wasn’t pressed on domestic problems that may yet influence cross-strait ties.
Incidentally, his response over whether he would welcome the Dalai Lama was “no.”