Mon, May 28, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr. On Taiwan: Thoughts on ‘Orwellian nonsense’

Ah! “Orwellian nonsense.” It is my new favorite epithet in the bemusing lexicon of Washington-Beijing relations. The term was employed by the White House to take the “Chinese Communist Party” itself to task for demanding unquestioning foreign acknowledgment of all manner of fantastical Chinese claims. It was born of a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) admonition dated April 25, 2018, that foreign airlines not only have transgressed Chinese law but also had violated “the one-China policies of their own honorable governments” (違背貴國政府一個中國政策). How? By referring to “Taiwan” in their various web sites and mobile phone apps as separate from “China.”

When first I learned of the infamous CAAC letter, I shook my head in resignation. “The noose tightens around Taiwan,” thought I, and awaited for Washington to issue some stale recitation about “maintaining the status quo,” at best; at worst, nothing.

Sure enough, two days later, on April 27, the State Department informed the Chinese government that “We object to Beijing dictating how US firms, including airlines, organize their Web sites for ease of consumer use” and if China penalizes US airlines for noncompliance, “we will consider taking appropriate action if necessary in response to unfair Chinese actions.” Alas, the State Department seemed to treat this as a matter of user-friendly web sites to be countered by threatening to “consider taking appropriate action.”

Even so, it was a prompt response given that April 27 was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s first full day on the job. Certainly, Secretary Pompeo had far more important things on his mind at the time, and the State Department probably felt no further action on Beijing’s aviation missive was necessary.

The White House, however, thought otherwise. In the midst of preparations to receive Chinese Vice Premier Liu He’s (劉鶴) trade delegation in Washington, news of Beijing’s peremptory behavior toward US airlines set off alarms. **Washington Post** foreign policy writer Josh Rogin reported Friday, May 5, that the Trump Administration saw the CAAC letter as a challenge: “Nobody has pushed back on this so far,” Rogin said. “The White House is pledging to start doing that now.” One White House aide told Rogin the episode showed “China is out of control.”

Such pushback was unexpected. It came in one of the strongest-ever public statements of White House impatience with China, from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was travelling with President Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, May 5. Ms. Sanders clearly spoke with the President’s authority, prefacing her statement by reiterating that “President Donald J. Trump ran against political correctness in the United States. He will stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens.” Then, rather than parse America’s one-China policy or voice specific support for Taiwan, the statement broadly characterized the CAAC letter as “Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.” She pointed to China’s “world-famous” system of “internal Internet repression” and pledged that “China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.”

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