Chinese state media on Tuesday criticized US talk show host John Oliver for a satirical sketch that offered a brief history of Taiwan and explained its political situation.
That a US talk show that delivers its message through satire discussed Taiwan highlights the ridiculous nature of Taiwan’s plight — in which Taiwanese cannot represent themselves at international organizations due to pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), despite the nation never having been ruled by the PRC.
In an op-ed, the Global Times said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are damaging the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait, claiming it was a situation that most Taiwanese want to maintain. It also accused the US of pushing “autocracy and ideological values” in the Indo-Pacific region.
Clearly the piece was written for English-language speakers living in China where access to international media is limited, not for a global audience that has seen China send dozens of warplanes near Taiwan over the past several months without any provocation. It also fails to mention how the PRC has been threatening Southeast Asian nations over the past several years by militarizing the South China Sea.
It is understandable that Chinese state media would twist the facts, even in English. What is perhaps even more telling is that Beijing felt the need to respond at all to a satirical sketch, highlighting its fragility in the face of facts and the importance it places in maintaining its disinformation campaign.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is threatened by anything that challenges its official stance, which is vastly different from the situation in Taiwan. The CCP is unable to fathom the idea of free thought and dissent, which is highlighted in the Global Times, when it cites as a failure of Taiwan’s democracy fighting in the legislature in November last year over US pork imports.
The piece argued that Tsai decided to import US pork despite opposition, and that she threatened the health of Taiwanese. This demonstrates the CCP’s lack of understanding about how such decisions are made in a democracy, and overlooks that the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) opposition to the policy is acceptable only because Taiwan is a democracy. The KMT is bringing the issue to a referendum in December, when the public is to vote on whether to reverse the decision. Perhaps the CCP could give examples of when its policies were challenged, or when its people voted on government policy.
The Chinese government would have been better off not responding at all to Oliver’s sketch. In doing so, it emphasized its confusion over facts, the illegitimacy of its position and its weakness in the face of free speech.
The growing support for Taiwan internationally shows that as people around the world experience Chinese aggression themselves, they are more aware of Taiwan’s plight and the importance of supporting it. The most powerful examples of this are Taiwan’s friends in the Czech Republic, France and elsewhere who were personally threatened by China for simply visiting Taiwan.
Even in the non-political arena, Taiwanese diver Mia Hou (侯一明) had her flag removed during a competition in Cyprus, which prompted divers from 11 other countries to remove their own flags in solidarity.
China’s baseless response to Oliver’s truthful and entertaining take on Taiwan highlights the CCP’s weakness and vulnerability. The DPP and other parties that have Taiwan’s best interests in mind should encourage more international programs to discuss the country’s plight.
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