There is something about art and symbols that really gets under the skin of Chinese Communist Party officials and makes them behave in ways that even they must know is against their self-interest.
This is exemplified by the deplorable decision made during the London Olympics this summer to take down the Republic of China flag from Regent Street after Chinese representatives in the UK pressured British officials to do so. Chinese officials apparently could not bear the idea that a symbol of Taiwanese nationhood, disagreeable though it may be to some Taiwanese, could flutter alongside the flags of other nations. However, rather than strengthen China’s interests, the move damaged its image while bringing into full contrast the reasons why Taiwan is not — and cannot be — part of China. The controversy received substantial coverage in the media, especially after hundreds of young people bearing flags gathered on Regent Street for various photo ops.
Over the years, Chinese officials, sports coaches and students have constantly lost their senses over art, images, films and other manifestations of freedom, ripping flags, boycotting festivals and sometimes resorting to physical violence. It is hard to tell whether this instinctive reaction to symbols stems from growing up in a society where propagandistic images played such a powerful role in cultivating nationalism, or from the realization that symbols can spark an emotional response in people.
The best example of this occurred earlier this month, when two officials from the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco attempted to intimidate David Lin (林銘新), a Taiwan-born American who erected a large mural depicting Chinese repression of Tibetans and Taiwanese, by writing letters to and then visiting the mayor of the town Lin lives in: Corvallis, Oregon.
Surely, as representatives to the US, Vice Consul Zhang Hao (張浩) and Deputy Consul-General Song Ruan (宋如安) should have known a thing or two about the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which among other provisions guarantees freedom of expression. Maybe poor training at China’s diplomacy school failed to inform them of this, though this would not explain why their political masters back in Beijing, whose permission they must have sought before launching their tirade, would agree to such a course of action.
Perhaps they thought they could get away with it, as governments sometimes do allow themselves to be bullied by China, and the Oregon town needs China more than China needs it. However, Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning defended the Constitution and appropriately lectured the two messengers on the virtues of the First Amendment, which enshrines rights and responsibilities.
Here again is a case of Chinese officials undermining their reputation and that of their country by attacking art and trying to impose the censorship regime that stifles freedom of expression in China (but does not censor jingoists like Sina Weibo microblogger @sunshineGaoyang, the purported editor-in-chief of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Weekly and self-styled “Taiwan expert,” from rejoicing at the “wonderful” news of the assassination of the US ambassador to Libya, or the Beijing Evening News’ calls for Japan to be “nuked”).
Whatever the cause, this trait among Chinese officials is a weakness that Taiwan’s supporters should exploit. Taiwanese have an uncanny ability to translate ideas through visual art and proliferate them via the Internet. If artistic expression forces Beijing to reveal its true colors, then more art, murals, films, banners and flags should be put out there to tell not only Taiwan’s story, but by its reaction, that of China as well.
Starting today through Sept. 22, a series of activities — outreach events, photography shoots, a marathon, music concerts, roundtables and a rally — will be held in New York to support Taiwan’s bid to join the UN. Go check it out (www.un4tw.org), and keep an eye out for Chinese reactions.
In 2020, then-US president Donald Trump’s administration banned Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung from manufacturing advanced chips for Chinese companies on the Entity List such as Huawei. Last year, US President Joe Biden’s administration announced that exports of high-performance computing chips from the US to China require approval; sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China that can be used to produce logic chips at or below the 14/16-nanometer technology node, DRAM chips with a half-pitch less than or equal to 18 nanometers and NAND chips with 128 or more layers also require approval; and all US citizens or permanent
The Twenty-Four Histories (中國廿四史) is a collection of official Chinese dynastic histories from Records of the Grand Historian (史記) to the History of the Ming Dynasty (明史) that cover the time from the legendary Yellow Emperor (黃帝) to the Chongzhen Emperor (崇禎), the last Ming emperor. History is written by the victors. These histories are not merely records of the rise and fall of emperors, they also demonstrate the ways in which conquerors embellished their own achievements while deriding those of the conquered. The history written by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is no exception. The PRC presents its
In August 2013, Reuters reported that Beijing had been gaining soft power with investment commitments and trade with countries in Latin America. However, instead of jumping on the chance to make new allies, China stalled requests to establish diplomatic relations with the countries to avoid galling Taiwanese voters. Beijing was also courting then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and the tactic left China with a trump card if cross-strait relations turned cool. China had rebuffed at least five countries’ requests to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the report said, quoting a China analyst. Honduras could become the ninth diplomatic ally, and also the fifth
OpenAI has announced a major upgrade to the technology that underpins ChatGPT, the seemingly magical online tool that professionals have been using to draft e-mails, write blog posts and more. If you think of ChatGPT as a car, the new language model known as GPT-4 adds a more powerful engine. The old ChatGPT could only read text. The new ChatGPT can look at a photograph of the contents of your fridge and suggest a dinner recipe. The old ChatGPT scored in the 10th percentile on the bar exam. The new one was in the 90th. In the hours since its release,