China watchers usually argue that the international community's willingness to look the other way on China's abysmal human rights record is the result of selfish business interests. Human nature being what it is, that rationalization generally holds water.
The Vatican's persistent wooing of Beijing, on the other hand, poses a mystery. After all, it does not own factories in China, nor, for all we know, does it have any financial investments there. Given that the lure of business -- or, in practice, financial blackmail -- do not apply to the Vatican's relations with Beijing, the Pontiff and his subordinates would appear to be free to act toward China as they see fit.
But except for occasional criticism -- mostly by Cardinal Joseph Zen (
There is no doubt, however, that if any of the three bishops had not been in Beijing's good graces, bishophood would have remained an elusive dream. This is par for the course with a central government that continues to meddle in religion, as prominently displayed in Beijing's treatment of Tibetan Lamas and the evisceration of religious tradition in Tibet proper.
Surely the Vatican is aware of this, as repression of religious groups -- Muslims and Falun Gong specifically -- has received no small amount of publicity.
So what happened? How could the Vatican choose to deal with Beijing and, above all, do so without a concomitant and sustained criticism of the regime's record on human rights, religious or otherwise?
The answer, inauspicious as it may be to say on Christmas Day, is that the Vatican is on its way to making a deal with the devil. Rather than harvesting financial gain the way countries and multinationals do, however, what it covets are the souls of millions of Chinese.
In doing so, the Vatican is continuing the long, ignoble tradition of a political message that sees humanity in zero-sum terms -- the more souls the better, regardless of local customs in foreign lands or the devastating consequences of their actions.
In return, what Beijing seeks most is neither the salvation of Chinese souls nor more religious freedom for its people. What it wants is diplomatic recognition from the Vatican at the expense of Taiwan.
Left unchecked, the Vatican's missionary zeal could very well mean that, just as happens with countries that deal with China regardless of the poor human rights conditions there, morality will be crucified for the attainment of a quantifiable objective.
Money, souls -- Beijing exploits both as goods that can be traded for the achievement of its political objectives.
If the Vatican hopes that by engaging Beijing it will be able to influence its behavior, it is in for a rude awakening. For in the end, the more it engages China without setting and enforcing human rights policies, the more complicit it becomes in the repression of Chinese.
And it would be pure delusion to think that Chinese Catholics would be spared.
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.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that