Tea Leaf Nation

A Recording of FP’s Interview With Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je

A statement on a controversial quote.

Taipei Mayoral Election 2014
TAIPEI, TAIWAN - NOVEMBER 29: Independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je talks with media after he leaves a polling station November 29, 2014 in Taipei, Taiwan. Millions of voters go to the polls for the island's largest ever local elections, with the Beijing-friendly ruling party facing a rout in a key test ahead of the presidential race. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)

On Jan. 29, Foreign Policy published on its Tea Leaf Nation channel the highlights of a Jan. 20 interview between FP contributor Grace Tsoi and Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je. That interview lasted over 45 minutes and was, as the original article attested, “conducted in a combination of Chinese and English” and “condensed for clarity.”

The interview quickly set off a flurry of coverage and controversy in Taiwan, as well in mainland China. In particular, reports have focused on this passage:

“For the [world’s] four Chinese-speaking regions — Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and mainland China — the longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is. It’s rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland. I’m speaking in terms of culture. I’ve been to Vietnam and mainland China. Even though the Vietnamese are seemingly poor, they always stop in front of red traffic lights and walk in front of green ones. Even though mainland China’s GDP is higher than that of Vietnam, if you ask me about culture, the Vietnamese culture is superior.”

On Feb. 1, Ko told domestic media he had not used the term “colonization” in his interview with FP. On Feb. 2, Ko appeared to back off from his earlier statement when he said he would be “more precise” in future interviews, and Taiwan-based Apple Daily quoted a member of Ko’s team saying, “It was our mistake.”

To the extent that any questions remain about the accuracy of FP’s translation, we make available below the relevant portion of the recorded interview with Ko. FP continues to stand by its translation.

Listen to the relevant portion of Ko’s interview, which is mostly in Chinese:

Getty Images

David Wertime is a senior editor at Foreign Policy, where he manages its China section, Tea Leaf Nation. In 2011, he co-founded Tea Leaf Nation as a private company translating and analyzing Chinese social media, which the FP Group acquired in September 2013. David has since created two new miniseries and launched FP’s Chinese-language service. His culture-bridging work has been profiled in books including The Athena Doctrine and Digital Cosmopolitans and magazines including Psychology Today. David frequently discusses China on television and radio and has testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. In his spare time, David is an avid marathon runner, a kitchen volunteer at So Others Might Eat, and an expert mentor at 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based incubator and seed fund. Originally from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, David is a proud returned Peace Corps volunteer. He holds an English degree from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University.

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