DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH), a German news service, came out with an appalling article on growth that simply regurgitates KMT claims on the economy without any context or countervailing evidence offered. The article reports the KMT attack on the government’s growth figures…..

Taiwan on Friday released encouraging export figures but many Taiwanese are questioning the accuracy of the government’s earlier economic figures.

The article is technically correct — many Taiwanese probably do question the figures — but nowhere does it note which Taiwanese or why. Note that by saying “many Taiwanese” rather than “the opposition KMT” in the opening frame, it creates the impression that this claim is neutral among election campaigns, though in reality, of course, it is an article of faith among KMT supporters. A few paragraphs further down, it says:

On Thursday, the central statistics office said Taiwan’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.92 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, marking the fastest pace in three years.

Some economists and government critics have questioned the accuracy of the government figure. In addition to the fact that many Taiwanese are out of work, the growth estimate is far bigger than the average year-on-year real GDP growth that Taiwan has posted over the last five years.

First, again observe — the article says “some economists and government critics” without mentioning that this position is the position of the political opposition. The slanted framing should by now be very clear. How slanted is the framing? The terms KMT and opposition never appear.

“Many Taiwanese out of work”? But the latest unemployment numbers are below 4% and hiring is on the upswing, as the pro-KMT China Post reported the other day. Nor is there anything unusual about 5.46% growth. Here are the growth rates from DGBAS, using 2001 prices:

1997 6.59%
1998 4.55%
1999 5.75%
2000 5.77%
2001 -2.17%
2002 4.64%
2003 3.50%
2004 6.15%
2005 4.16%
2006 4.89% (since revised to 4.68%)
2007 5.46% (est)

In other words, if you look at the range of growth rates rather than the average for the last decade, 5.46% lies well within the range. But never mind that. All DPA had to do was cite countervailing independent evidence: the Bloomberg survey I blogged on earlier this week, a survey of 16 economists who work in international firms — independent of the government, needless to say — that pegged Taiwan’s growth rate at 5.12%. The two figures differ by less than 7% — if the DGBAS is making up numbers, it is doing so very conservatively.

DPA then commits what looks like a gross ethical breach:

Wei Duan, former director of the central statistics office, suspected the figure was fabricated to win votes in the upcoming presidential election.

Here Wei Duan is cited as a “former director of the central statistics office.” That was in the late 1990s. Wei Duan is actually a KMT stalwart, a former member of the Party’s Central Standing Committee from 1999-2000. In other words, the DPA cites him as an ‘expert’ without revealing that he is a KMT member with high rank. That strikes me as deeply unethical — and par for the course for this piece.

The DPA then regurgitates the KMT election plank, without any observation that it is, indeed, part of an election platform, using loaded language:

In the 1970s and 1980s, Taiwan used to be one of Asia’s Four Small Dragons, but Taiwan’s economy has deteriorated due to Taipei’s five- decade ban on sea and air links with China, the world’s largest production base and consumer market.

The idea that the economy has “deteriorated” is pure KMT bullshit. Economic growth has slowed, only, but it is easy to sustain high growth when the economy is tiny and your patron power, the US, gives you every assistance in exporting to its own economy. As can be seen from the real GDP growth figures above, economic growth is clicking along at rates many nations would envy. Someday I’d like to see a media article that acknowledges that the DPP government is probably the most open to China in the history of the island. The real issue is that incomes are stagnant and prices are rising, and that is caused in part by the exodus of Taiwanese firms to China — because the DPP is so open, especially compared to Taiwan’s previous KMT governments.

The DPA soldiers on in the pro-China cause:

In recent years Taiwan has been further marginalized as foreign countries have signed joint free trade agreements (FTA) or formed free trade blocks to the exclusion of Taiwan for fear of angering China which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Once again, we get how China sees Taiwan, but not how Taiwan sees China. Compare this more professionally done AP article, which adopts a more neutral tone in discussing the same issue, identifies the claim that the figures are bogus as an opposition claim, provides contextualizing information, and reports the claims of others, rather than incorporating them into its own presentation.

Nice work, DPA.

UPDATE: DGBAS says monthly wages are at a seven year high.

Regular monthly salaries of local wage earners in the country’s service and industrial sectors averaged NT$36,676 (US$1,134.08) in the first nine months of this year, up 1.73 percent from the year-earlier level, an official said Saturday.

The amount marked a seven-year high, the official with the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said.

Moreover, local wage earners’ average regular monthly salary has continued rising for the past six quarters and consistently registered a more-than-1-percent year-on-year growth for the past 16 months in a row, the official said, adding that all these figures indicate a steady increase in their regular average salary.

UPDATE II: Anon adds in the comments below:

Hey Michael, there’s a great weekly radio program that does very politically-neutral, very scholarly based explanations of hot economics in Taiwan. This week’s program was about the whole South Korea vs Taiwan topic and rising prices.

Here’s the link to this week’s: mms://play.ccdntech.com/vod09/wma/6200711261910.wma
Here’s a link to the archives: