Fri, Aug 17, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Chinese frustration showing: premier

RANDOM STRIKES:Chinese threats to boycott the bakery chain 85oC is just another example of Beijing feeling the heat from the trade war with the US, William Lai said

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai speaks at a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Premier William Lai (賴清德) has lashed out at China for threatening to boycott Taiwan-based bakery cafe chain 85°C (85度C) after a California outlet allegedly gave President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a gift bag, comparing its behavior to a “blind swordsman randomly striking around” and said it was likely venting its frustration on Taiwan after the setbacks in its trade war with the US.

“Such behavior will not win society’s support,” Lai said in an interview that aired on Wednesday night on Chinese Television System.

“While in the US, the president passed by a store of a very successful local brand and went inside to buy a few cups of coffee to encourage the employees,” he said.

“China’s reaction to this natural act was grossly excessive,” the premier said. “China is like a blind swordsman randomly striking around.”

The interview came on the heels of a statement issued by 85°C on its simplified Chinese-language Web site, in which it declared its support for the so-called “1992 consensus” and the notion that “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” in an apparent attempt to pacify Beijing.

The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

Some Chinese netizens have labeled the bakery chain, which has more than 1,000 branches worldwide, including in China, as a pro-Taiwanese independence business for receiving Tsai at a store in Los Angeles and threatened to boycott it.

China’s overreaction could be rooted in the pressure it was feeling from its trade war with Washington, Lai said.

That includes a ban on US government agencies using surveillance and telecommunications devices manufactured by a number of Chinese companies, in accordance with restrictions laid down in the US’ National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

Citing as an example ZTE Corp (中興通訊), a Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer singled out by the act, Lai said: “What was touted as a major [Chinese] company and a multinational could not withstand a move from the US and had to close down.”

The incident made China “lose face,” Lai said, in reference to ZTE’s suspension of operations in the US in May after it was found to have breached US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

“The company had to completely accept terms laid down by the US, including restructuring its board of directors, before it could resume operations [in the US], which came at a great cost,” he said.

“I think China is trying to take various opportunities to tell its people that it is indeed as strong as it claims to be, and during difficult times, especially when facing US pressure, it takes it out on Taiwan,” the premier said.

Lai also cited Beijing’s pressuring international airlines into changing the way they refer to Taiwan on their Web sites, which he said has sparked objections by other governments that it was meddling with their internal affairs.

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