Taiwan votes ‘fake’ as its defining word in reality check for food industry

Analysts suggest concerns about food safety are behind poll results while others claim vote reflects dissatisfaction with government

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou receives a model of an Apache attack helicopter from the Taiwanese army’s commander in chief Lee Shying-jow on Friday. Some suggest the island’s residents were expressing their unhappiness with the government of Mr Ma in choosing “fake” as their word of the year. Photograph: Taiwan military news agency handout/EPA

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou receives a model of an Apache attack helicopter from the Taiwanese army’s commander in chief Lee Shying-jow on Friday. Some suggest the island’s residents were expressing their unhappiness with the government of Mr Ma in choosing “fake” as their word of the year. Photograph: Taiwan military news agency handout/EPA

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:00



And the defining word in the self-ruled Chinese island of Taiwan for the year 2013 is . . . fake!

“Jia” (fake) saw off “hei” (black) and “luan” (chaos), after a week-long vote in the Word of the Year event that is co-hosted by the Far East Group and United Daily News newspapers.


Food safety concerns
Some analysts suggested that Taiwan, established after the Communists won the civil war in 1949 but increasingly economically dependent on the People’s Republic, was worried about food safety in the light of a string of scandals.

Many shoppers told the Taipei Times that they did not trust Taiwan food brands as much as they used to after plasticisers were found in emulsifying additives used in products ranging from sports drinks to fruit jelly.

Others suggested the island’s residents were expressing their unhappiness with the government of President Ma Ying-jeou, who has done much to bring the two sides across the Strait of Taiwan closer together.

“Fake” garnered the most votes and apparently enjoyed the largest margin of victory yet seen in the six years that the poll has been held.

In those six years, the Taiwan Word of the Year has seen a diverse vocabulary come to the fore. In 2012, the winner was “worrying” (you), while in 2011 it was “awesome” (zan).

The candidate words are selected by a group of social experts and then submitted to a vote by mobile phone. The poll involved almost 18,000 votes from 62,000 respondents.

While food safety scandals are normally something one associates with mainland China, there have been an alarming 17 such scandals in Taiwan this year.

More than half of the candidate words this year were negative, said Sunny You, chief editor of the United Daily News, reflecting public unease and distrust. “It may not be surprising, but it is regrettable,” she said.

The top seven of 10 spots all went to words with negative associations. “Real” came in eighth place.

China has claimed Taiwan since Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang fled there in 1949, after they lost to Mao Zedong’s Communists.