One year to the day before the Olympic Games are to open in Beijing, the international media are realizing that the Chinese authorities' promise to respect press freedom was more like one of the knockoff products that China is infamous for than an honest commitment to respecting the rights of journalists.
On Monday, foreign reporters were roughed up during a protest rally and detained in a parking lot across from the Beijing Olympic organizing committee's office. The manner in which the Beijing authorities responded to the demonstrators' claims -- that media freedoms are a sham -- could not have better underscored the point the demonstrators were trying to make.
As journalists in China face growing repression from the authorities, the circumstances can only help expose a regime that, despite its claims, never intended to loosen its grip on information.
By suppressing the media, Beijing may be sowing the seeds of its own demise, because at no other point in its peacetime history has China been the focus of so much outside scrutiny. Short of a draconian crackdown on domestic and foreign media -- meaning static on our TV screens throughout the Olympics -- the authoritarian regime that hides behind the veneer of all the gaudy toys, multicolored banners and titillating slogans will surface.
Or, as Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch has said: "The government seems afraid that its own citizens will embarrass it by speaking out about political and social problems, but China's leaders apparently don't realize authoritarian crackdowns are even more embarrassing."
Some in Beijing, having long enjoyed control over the country's information, don't realize the potential embarrassment they face. But while the government can whitewash domestic media content with relative ease, it is now realizing that the rules governing foreign reporters are a little different.
Enter Taiwan. Despite great efforts by President Chen Shui-bian's (
As long as China doesn't directly threaten their interests, people will have little time for what goes on within its borders, let alone what its neighbors have to say. Sadly, when it comes to awakening from its moral torpor, the global community is still very much local.
But the Games could change all that. For a brief moment, what transpires in Beijing, such as the blunders authorities will make, will appear on hundreds of millions of TV screens around the world. For a few weeks, what Chinese citizens endure every day will be made global.
True, viewers will focus on the athletes and the sanitized travel shows about the Central Kingdom's Great Wall, exotic food and ancient customs. But remember the Atlanta Games in 1996: One act by a deranged individual was all it took to shift the attention of millions of viewers.
Human rights advocates and many others with legitimate grievances will be among the principal characters on the world stage and their voices will be heard. The more faux pas Beijing commits as it clamps down on truth seekers -- and make no mistake, it will clamp down -- and the more embarrassment it suffers as it is caught in its own web of lies, the better the international community will know Beijing's true, repressive self. Only this time around, the world will be there to witness it.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably