How does Taiwan sum up 2013? In a word: fake

Choice in annual survey seen as reflecting turmoil in politics and food safety scandals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 4:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 4:48am

A public poll in Taiwan has selected "fake" as the Chinese character for 2013 for the island, symbolising a year marred by political turmoil and food safety scandals.

Respondents to a survey carried out by Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News overwhelmingly chose the Chinese character "jia", or "fake", as word of the year.

Altogether, 57 words were included in the survey, with "fake" receiving 18,000 of 62,000 votes - nearly 30 per cent.

"Black" was runner-up, followed by "poison", "chaos", "lie", "boredom", "muddle", "real", "wake", while "safe" tied with "food" for the last spot. Out of 11 top words, seven had negative connotations, while three bordered on positive.

The newspaper conducted the annual survey by telephone between November 14 and last Thursday. The results were announced on Tuesday.

It was the sixth year in a row the newspaper held the poll to select a word of the year.

The past 12 months have been rocky for the island. In politics, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou locked horns with the legislature's speaker, Wang Jin-pyng. Ma had tried to force Wang out of the ruling Kuomintang, and the feud dragged on for months until the rivals agreed to a truce.

The island was also hit by a series of food safety scandals, involving cooking oil, milk, rice and alcohol.

The government vowed to set up a new task force to help stamp out such problems and moved to bolster oversight through amendments to food sanitation laws.

According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ta Kung Pao, when asked whether the word "fake" had any association with political figures, the deputy secretary general of Taiwan's People First Party, Liu Wen-hsiung, responded: "Ma Ying-jeou is [fake]!"

The words chosen in the poll often reflect the overriding issues of the year. In 2008, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the word was "chaos".

Last year, the character chosen was "you", meaning "worry".