First they came for Winnie the Pooh, then they came for Peppa Pig: It seems that no fictional character, no matter how beloved by children — and adults — the world over, is too innocuous to be deemed a threat to the political and moral well-being of China. Make that the political well-being — and continued dominance — of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Honey-loving Winnie fell afoul of China’s massive censor network after the plump bear last year became a popular meme with which to mock equally rounded Xi, especially in the months ahead of the CCP’s 19th National Congress in October.
This week, the Chinese State Administration of Radio and Television ruled that British TV cartoon character Peppa Pig, created for the preschool-age set, promoted a “slacker lifestyle” and banned her from a popular video-sharing app. It turns out that in the eyes of the Chinese government, the five-minute episodes about a pig, family and friends going for bike rides, swimming or spending time with grandparents were not really celebrating family life, but corrupting “poorly educated and jobless” young Chinese into getting Peppa tattoos and making Peppa-related jokes, and to quote the agency’s ruling, becoming “unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the party tries to cultivate.”
To many people outside of China, such bans are cause for mockery, but there is really nothing funny about the heavy-handed oppressive gaslighting of an entire society — or the efforts of the CCP and Beijing to gaslight people in other nations into accepting their viewpoint, be it the idea that Taiwan and Tibet are inalienable parts of China or that Beijing’s deployment of cruise missiles on three reefs in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), like the rest of its militarization efforts in the South China Sea, is nothing to worry about.
There is also nothing funny about Chinese authorities’ insistence that Liu Xia (劉霞), the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), “enjoys all freedoms in accordance with the law,” when the reality is that the poet and one-time civil servant has been kept under house arrest since her then-imprisoned husband was awarded the Nobel in 2010. Her reality is so bleak that for years, even before her husband’s death in June last year, friends warned of her deepening depression, while this week, as the world focused on Peppa’s plight in China, stories that Liu Xia told a friend in a telephone call that she is ready to kill herself to protest her plight went largely unnoticed.
“Those who do not intend to be aggressive have no need to be worried or scared,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said, when pressed about the missile deployments.
That is like saying that those who have committed no crime need not worry or be frightened about being arrested or imprisoned — and Liu Xia, who has never been charged with or convicted of any crime, like so many others who do not agree with Beijing, is a living testament to China’s lies.
Psychology Today magazine last year published an 11-point list of the techniques used by people who gaslight, which included: telling blatant lies; denying ever saying something, even when there is proof they did; their actions do not match their words; isolating their victim and trying to align others against them; and telling their victim — or others — that they are crazy.
Beijing ticks every item on that list and in so many situations that it is hard to keep track, but that just makes it more vital to push back and challenge China’s lies every time and to encourage others to do the same. Just keep saying that Taiwanese are not crazy not to feel a part of China, that Beijing does not and cannot speak for Taiwan at the WHO or any other international body, and that Chinese militarization of the South China Sea is a threat to the region and to the international right of passage through the area.
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Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James