The Italian newspaper La Verita on April 8 reported that the Vatican was secretly arranging for Pope Francis to visit China and that Italy’s China-friendly government was promoting such a visit. Although the Holy See Press Office said that the report was devoid of any substance, it has inevitably attracted attention in view of China’s strenuous efforts in its overseas propaganda to shirk responsibility for the spread of COVID-19.
Following February’s historic meeting in Munich, Germany, between the foreign ministers of the Holy See and China, the Vatican wishes to have further contacts. Beijing, for its part, sees this development as manna from heaven and believes that a papal visit to Wuhan would signify that the virus-stricken city has come back to life.
More to the point, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc around the world and Western nations point the finger of blame at China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) feels an urgent need to shake off responsibility for concealing the outbreak and wants to dispel accusations of being the source of the virus. At such a time, the CCP’s usual insistence on atheism can take a back seat. If staging a joint act with religious forces can soothe public discontent, then so be it. The CCP knows that it can go back to repressing people’s beliefs later on.
Shifting the focus and shirking responsibility are the CCP’s modus operandi. For the CCP, any principle is just a tool for consolidating its power, as long as it fits its political requirements. Anything, be it a historical grievance, the banner of nationalism or insistence on atheism, can be pinched and molded into shape, and handled as flexibly as the party sees fit.
Former Japanese representative to Taiwan Tadashi Ikeda described this habitual strategy of the CCP in depth in a book he wrote about diplomacy in a turbulent Asia. Ikeda observed that before Japan and China established diplomatic relations, China often decried the 1951 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan, saying that it constituted an aggressive military alliance that treated China as an enemy.
However, the September 1972 Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, which established diplomatic relations between the two nations, did not mention the 1951 treaty. This omission implied that China accepted the treaty’s existence as something normal. China made this concession because its primary concern following the Sino-Soviet split was to align with the US and Japan against the Soviet Union, so the issue of the security treaty could be set aside for the time being.
Another example is how, when the whole world was boycotting China after the suppression of the 1989 democracy movement in Tiananmen Square, Beijing told Tokyo that if the Japanese emperor could visit China, the visit would put an end to wartime grievances between the two nations.
In 1992, then-Japanese emperor Akihito finally visited China, where he expressed his deep sorrow for the suffering that Japan had inflicted on Chinese during the war. Following Akihito’s visit, relations between the two nations looked harmonious.
However, when then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) visited Japan in 1998, he wore a Mao suit when attending a state dinner at the imperial palace, where he made a speech that sternly criticized Japanese militarism.
Ten years later, former Chinese minister of foreign affairs Qian Qichen (錢其琛) wrote in his memoirs that Akihito’s visit to China was arranged to dismantle the international community’s sanctions following the Tiananmen Massacre and help China break out of its encirclement. This revelation caused the Japanese to finally realize that they had been used by China.
With the CCP’s habit of changing its positions, any principle can be adjusted if it allows the party to turn an issue in its own favor. The issue today is that China cannot give a reasonable explanation about how the novel coronavirus outbreak started, and countries around the world are blaming it for the pandemic. Under such circumstances, if the Holy See is really negotiating with China to arrange a papal visit, it should think hard about Beijing’s underlying purpose of shirking its responsibility. The pope should not rashly accept an invitation to visit. If he does, the Chinese government, keen to cast off the blame, will use his visit as a chance to break through the siege of global public opinion. In that case, the pressure for China to face its responsibility will be greatly diminished.
Mark Chen is a former minister of foreign affairs.
Translated by Julian Clegg
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday last week announced it would impose sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a vast paramilitary organization that is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has been linked to human rights violations against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions follow US travel bans against other Xinjiang officials and the passage of the US Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which authorizes targeted sanctions against mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, in response to Beijing’s imposition of national security legislation on the territory. The sanctions against the corps would be implemented