Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Stop Beijing from turning the world into Zenbos

By Yen Ming-wei 顏銘緯

Late last month, the Taiwanese film Missing Johnny (強尼.凱克) was banned in China after the male lead, Lawrence Ko (柯宇綸), was labeled as being “pro-Taiwan independence.”

Shortly thereafter, GPS maker Garmin Corp, which was cofounded by Taiwan-born American Min Kao (高明環), issued a public apology for listing Taiwan as a country and promised to conduct an overall review of its branch companies’ Web sites.

Just a few days ago, there was another incident, as Asustek Computer Inc (華碩) introduced its home robot “Zenbo” at the inaugural AI Robot Makers Alliance in the Southern Taiwan Science Park. When the robot was asked where it was, it surprisingly answered that it was in Tainan, a city in China’s Taiwan Province.

The fact that a robot, which lacks free will, made such a statement, has helped the Taiwanese public to finally understand that China is using its “sharp power” to try to turn every individual in every domain into a Zenbo.

Beginning late last year, Western countries started asking about the appropriateness and preciseness of the concept of “soft power.” As the economic strength of authoritarian states such as China and Russia grows, they have failed to win the hearts and minds of people around the world through their use of soft power.

Instead, they have tried to control, threaten and tame others.

For example, China uses economic benefits to induce others to submit to and play along with the image that it creates and its propaganda.

Hence, a US National Endowment for Democracy report last year referred to this strength of authoritarian states as “sharp power.”

As The Economist magazine concluded in a recent article, such invasive, penetrative and forceful power could lead to self-censorship or domestic division on China issues in other countries, and even cause them to grant all of Beijing’s requests even before China takes action.

Western democracies are worried about losing their autonomy, but this is already happening in Taiwan as Taiwanese businesses and artists in China turn into Beijing’s Zenbos.

More importantly, China is unilaterally forcing Taiwanese businesses and political groups depending on China to clarify their stances and engage in self-censorship. Using this sharp power, Beijing has also intervened in the interior affairs of other countries, as well as the international domain, demanding that other states alter their stance on the Taiwan issue.

This nonsense is causing various problems, such as the Swedish Tax Agency’s change of the name “Taiwan” on its Web site to “Taiwan, Province of China,” and the Man Booker International Prize’s listing of Taiwanese author Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) as a national of “Taiwan, China,” although it was later restored to “Taiwan.” In other words, China’s sharp power includes its containment of Taiwan.

At a time when Western democracies are criticizing China from a values-based point of view, they have failed to find concrete and effective solutions to curb its sharp power.

Taiwan should at least join them in safeguarding the nation’s defenses based on Taiwanese values. Taiwanese should never ignore or tolerate that Beijing uses its sharp power to hurt their national security and status.

Yen Ming-wei is the spokesman of the Taiwan Radical Wings party and a senior student in National Sun Yat-sen University’s Department of Sociology.

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