The ____ of the Nation

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Taiwan’s Vice President Annette Lu is upset at the Associated Press and CNN. The issue? An AP story on Lu’s presidential run, which quoted a old slur from Beijing that Lu was the “scum of the nation.” Apparently CNN (which, like TIME, is owned by Time Warner) used the quote as the headline of the story on their website.

This whole thing strikes me as a little strange. Sure, it wasn’t the best headline. But aren’t politicians who have been hit with China’s unique insults–like Chris Patten, who was called a “sinner for a thousand generations”–supposed to have a sense of humor about the matter? Isn’t Lu, a former political prisoner during Taiwan’s authoritarian era who has been called “Asia’s Iron Lady,” made of sterner stuff? When Simon and I wrote in earlier posts that Taiwan’s independence-leaning politicians must enjoying getting a rise out of Beijing, was our analysis completely wrong?

Well, in answer to that last question, it turns out they sometimes do enjoy it when Beijing gets snippy with them. In fact, when TIME asked Lu about Beijing’s “scum” comments in 2000, she said, “They made me famous. I took it as a compliment–targeting me like that has made me internationally well-known.” Maybe she’s changed her mind. Maybe she’s just running for president.

(Oh yeah, one more question. What do you think Lu’s response will be to the Taipei Times? The headline of their story on the incident was “‘Scum of the nation’ report sparks Lu’s ire.”)