Firms should stop bowing to China

By Chang Kuo-tsai 張國財  / 

Sat, Nov 11, 2017 - Page 8

In many industries there is a belief that the Chinese market is so huge that it cannot be ignored. Some businesspeople, salivating at the prospect of tremendous riches, develop a severe case of China fever, irrespective of the costs involved.

However, if foreign companies entering the Chinese market lack ability and instead rely on massive charm offensives in the hopes of reaping fat rewards, they can expect a rude awakening.

A good example is the technology industry, where products are judged on quality, price and innovation.

Despite HTC Corp chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅) proclaiming that “HTC is a Chinese brand” during a 2010 speech in China, the company’s fortunes have tanked over the past years.

Should Taiwan’s cultural industry, looking to expand into the Chinese market, accept all of Red China’s restrictive conditions without reservation?

The industry needs to carefully reflect upon the style of its cultural output and on its sense of purpose.

In 1996 and 1997, Michael Jackson toured the globe for his HIStory World Tour, during which the US pop star performed in 56 cities across 35 countries and five continents.

However, he was not allowed to perform in China.

Did Jackson change his performance style to cater to the Chinese authorities or tone anything down in order to secure himself the opportunity to perform in China? Of course not. There was never any chance that he would be able to give a concert in China.

Despite having never before performed in the country, despite his status and his global fan base, Jackson was not given an opening there.

Russian classical pianist Evgeny Kissin has refused to perform in any communist country, including China. Those close to Kissin know that no amount of money would be enough to tempt him to perform there.

During a 2012 concert in Beijing, British pop star Elton John announced that he was dedicating his performance to Chinese artist and rights activist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

Ai is a perennial headache for Chinese authorities. Kissin and Ai perform their art in their own style, without sacrificing their artistic integrity.

The China Quarterly, published by Cambridge University Press, on Aug. 18 removed 315 “sensitive” articles and book reviews from the Chinese version of its Web site.

The underlying commercial considerations behind the decision did not put the university in a very flattering light.

Under attack from academia and the court of public opinion, Cambridge University Press restored the deleted content to the Web site on Aug. 22, belatedly rediscovering its cultural conscience.

In a similar case, the Journal of Chinese Political Science and International Politics, two publications belonging to Germany-based Springer Nature, the world’s largest scientific publishing company, were recently exposed as having succumbed to pressure from Beijing.

Access to at least 1,000 articles containing politically sensitive keywords pertaining to issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre were blocked on the publications’ Web sites.

This is tantamount to handing over control of international academia and culture to Beijing to spread its communist ideology.

Springer Nature, responding to anger within the academic community, attempted to play down the extent of the censorship, saying that the blocked articles represented only a “small amount of content” at less than 1 percent of total output — an absurd response.

If the world’s cultural and humanities industries castrate themselves and sell their souls to the devil in order to gain entry into China — a country where the government stifles free thought and shows disdain for liberty, democracy and human rights — these organizations will bear responsibility for the suffering of billions of Chinese, who remain trapped in the thought prison constructed by the “Chinese Corporate Party.”

Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.

Translated by Edward Jones