Just days before Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to embark on an official state visit to China, Beijing announced that one reporter who was to be part of the delegation would not be allowed to enter the country and denied him a visa.
China and Canada signed various agreements on Wednesday covering the energy, investment and other sectors, as relations between Ottawa and Beijing continue to improve following a decision by the Harper government to soften its rhetoric on China’s human rights situation.
Looking on as a delegation led by Harper brushed elbows with Chinese officials during the three-day visit were oil and business executives, as well as a retinue of reporters. However, one figure was missing: Matthew Little of the Epoch Times, an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Beijing’s decision was hardly surprising, given that the paper has a long tradition of criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its treatment of activists, religious groups and ethnic minorities in China.
Predictable though this was, the denial of Little’s entry visa is yet another example of the manner in which, little by little, China uses its influence to warp liberal democracies by imposing a series of conditions for conducting business.
The visit was far too important for Harper to have allowed the issue of one hapless reporter to derail everything — and Beijing knows that. As long as countries seeking to build a relationship with China continue to approach it as beggars rather than equals, CCP officials will have little compunction in drawing red lines over free speech or human rights.
We’ve now entered a period that we could call “diplomacy with Chinese characteristics,” where the promise of profit through “strategic” relations with China is accompanied by silence on a variety of issues. This is an age where it has become customary and increasingly acceptable, it seems, for China to request that partners exclude potential critics like Little, who is just one among many journalists, writers and academics who have been sidelined for refusing to hold their silence.
It is interesting to note that rarely, if ever, have liberal governments answered Beijing in kind whenever top Chinese officials visited their country. When was the last time a Western country denied a visa to a Chinese reporter from, say, the CCP-run People’s Daily, for promoting Han chauvinism in a manner that borders on the xenophobic, or encouraged the use of force against Tibetans, Uighurs, Taiwanese, Falun Gong practitioners — or any of the claimants to disputed islets in the South China Sea? China takes, while the rest of the world gives, slowly bringing about the “Beijing consensus” that Stefan Halper warns against in his book of the same title.
Taiwan under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has also jumped on the bandwagon, allowing in a number of CCP officials, mayors and thinkers who, under normal circumstances, should probably have been barred entry. In Taiwan and elsewhere, it has become permissible for governments to deny visits by figures such as the Dalai Lama or Uighur leader-in-exile Rebiya Kadeer, but whoever called for similar measures to be taken against Chinese officials is accused of “hating China” or irrationality.
There is nothing wrong with conducting business with China. Such a development is, in fact, natural and inevitable, given its economic growth and increasing importance on the international stage. However, this doesn’t mean that in the process of engagement we should lose the courage to stand up for what we believe in. Some countries, like Canada and Australia, have an abundance of natural resources that are coveted by China. Could this not be used as leverage in negotiations with China, allowing these countries to negotiate from a position of strength and principle, rather than as supplicants?
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