Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 8 News List

85°C case more than a cross-strait incident

By Lin Shiou-jeng 林修正

To give the Taiwanese coffee shop chain 85°C Bakery Cafe a morale boost, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited one of its outlets during her stopover in Los Angeles on Aug. 12 to buy some coffee and to give the staff a pep talk.

However, as a result of Tsai’s visit, Chinese pressure has mounted on the company, which responded by issuing a statement expressing its support of the so-called “1992 consensus.”

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office released a statement saying that no company is permitted to make money in China while supporting Taiwanese independence.

Many Chinese online shopping platforms removed the Taiwanese chain from their listings, while many Taiwanese who were displeased with the company’s handling of the issue called for a boycott of it.

Having offended both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the company has found itself in a difficult position.

However, this is not only a cross-strait affair between Taiwan and China, it is also a domestic US affair.

Although 85°C is run by Taiwanese, its US operations are registered with the US Department of Commerce, whose rights and obligations of business are protected by US law.

As China engages in political suppression of the commercial operations of a company on US land, it is interfering with the legal operations of a US firm.

Under such circumstances, the Department of Commerce should come forward and lodge a protest to safeguard the freedom to operate of US enterprises.

Since domestic business operations are considered an internal matter, the US Department of State should also have filed a strong protest.

When Beijing used its power to put pressure on Taiwan by demanding that international airline companies list Taiwan as part of China on their Web sites, the US government protested against China’s actions.

That was an international matter, and so it was okay for Washington to just sit back and watch.

However, the 85°C incident took place on US soil, which means that China extended its reach into the US, posing a serious challenge to US sovereignty and law.

If the US — the sole remaining global superpower — tolerates such bullying, it is in effect giving an inch and China will not hesitate to take a mile.

If that happens, even the freedom of companies run by US citizens is likely to face Chinese interference.

US President Donald Trump is engaged in a trade war with China, but this is a matter of fair trade and it does not involve sovereignty issues.

However, Beijing’s handling of the 85°C case was a slap in Washington’s face for the whole world to see. Will Trump allow the US to tolerate such humiliation?

Lin Shiou-jeng is an associate professor at Chung Chou University of Science and Technology.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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