If China wishes to become the world’s leading power, it should learn from the US and make itself an appealing dreamland, rather than a police state that incites conflict around the world.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Friday sent an astonishing 20 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, with some even crossing the zone in the southeast.
Local media interpreted the flights as Beijing’s angry response to a memorandum of understanding Taipei and Washington signed on Thursday to establish a joint coast guard working group that aims to promote maritime security and cooperation.
Regarding the memorandum, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) said that the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s reliance on the US in its quest for independence would push Taiwan into “disaster.”
While the statement is not innovative in any sense, it sends the message that it is the Chinese leadership who would bring disaster to Taiwan. The threat is more abominable when Taiwanese — or, in Beijing’s words, “compatriots” in Taiwan — are grieving over the loss of an air force pilot and the military is searching for another pilot missing after two jets crashed on Monday.
Meanwhile, Chinese social media users are pressuring celebrities to pledge their loyalty to Beijing, after several Western fashion and sports brands said that they would stop using cotton from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor in the western Chinese region. Several Taiwanese entertainers who have shifted their focus to the Chinese market have since voiced support for “Xinjiang cotton” and terminated contracts with the brands.
It is not the first time that Taiwanese celebrities have been pressured to endorse Beijing’s political agenda. Under commercial considerations, their actions are to a certain degree understandable, just like the actions of many countries that have shifted their diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.
However, the pressure campaign on celebrities demonstrates that, despite its ostensible opening, Beijing still lives in a feudalistic dream world.
Acting like an insecure adolescent, Beijing flexes its muscles, aiming to send a message to the world that it is no longer the China of the Qing Dynasty bullied by the Eight-Nation Alliance and to its citizens that they are protected by an invincible leadership.
Most of China’s actions in the diplomatic realm are driven by the desire to overcome a sense of humiliation and to recover national self-esteem. Beijing’s retaliatory sanctions on foreign officials and entities who commented on its human rights abuses can be viewed as attempt to redress an inferior performance during US-China talks in Alaska last week.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2012 coined the term “China dream,” he set the goals to rejuvenate the nation and bring happiness. During a meeting with then-US president Barack Obama in California in 2013, Xi said that the China dream is about peace, development and cooperation, and would be a win-win situation for both countries, as it is connected to the American dream.
Nearly a decade later, Xi has proven that his words should be read in an Orwellian twist of sense and that his China dream is about threats and suppression.
It is not impossible that China might one day realize its dream to become the world’s leading power, and Taiwan might even benefit.
However, before it can come closer to its goals, it should realize that people around the world, regardless of race, gender, or national or ethnic identity, strive for prosperity and dignity, not disasters and nightmares.
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