Tag Archives: Umbrella Movement

Sen. Rubio and Rep. Smith Chide China?


Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), (not shown above), released a very predictable opinion piece to CNN over the weekend. It comes on the cusp of an upcoming triple news play on Sino-US relations. On Wednesday, October 18, the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress will convene in Beijing. (See my previous post for the significance and my predictions.) On Thursday, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), of which Rubio and Smith are chair and co-chair, respectively, will issue its annual report delineating China’s alleged human rights violations and unfulfilled commitments to reform. And next month, of course, President Trump himself will travel to China for his first official visit to the Middle Kingdom. (I can’t fathom what a media circus that will be.)

Also predictably, China is sure to release its annual answer to the CECC report, detailing, in lengthy detail, America’s poor treatment of women, minorities, and children. Income inequality, climate change denial, and military aggression abroad are also likely to receive prominent treatment in the Chinese rebuttal.

Alas, you don’t have to be a Chinese apologist to accept that the Chinese do have a point in slinging right back at their American critics. The fact that American politicians still feel entitled, indeed obliged, to point out the faults, perceived or real, of the rest of the world, is perhaps the strongest evidence yet of just how out of touch America is with reality and itself at the moment.

After a week filled with salacious revelations about the exploits of Harvey Weinstein, who is most certainly not the exception to the rule in Hollywood, Trump’s threats to incinerate the people of North Korea, and Trump’s slap to the face of a country whose culture turns on face (i.e., Iran, if you have been away), Rubio and Smith apparently believe that China’s refusal to bend to US arrogance is worthy of America’s limited and painfully stretched supply of attention.


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Prominent in the Rubio/Smith piece is the accusation that “It [China] is increasingly dismissive of international norms and ‘Western’ ideas…” Say it ain’t so. How could China fail to yield to “principled American leadership,” as they call it? That we have to ask the question, once again, is ultimately both ruefully recursive and, quite frankly, beyond comprehension.

As is typical of the CECC report every year, this report will, if the Rubio/Smith letter is representative of the final product, focus on the alleged suppression of the freedom of expression in China. The Hong Kong “umbrella movement,” Tibet, religious expression, and, of course, the alleged repression of activists of all stripes, in areas from the environment, where it was the US which backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and ceded environmental global leadership to China, to, of course, the Internet and the media, where our digital gatekeepers are being openly criticized for not censoring Russian propaganda during the 2016 election, but censoring at least one Twitter account and a domestic political ad.

Taken in total, these accusations against China calibrate just how far America’s media myopia has progressed. If hateful social media platforms, fake news, and infantile political name-calling are the standard of a free and noble media, then the Chinese should consider themselves lucky to be ruled by such alleged oppression.

Finding bogeymen in the same old places, the letter also accuses China of “Coercive enforcement of population control policies continued in violation of international standards.” It is an unfounded and logically inconceivable accusation given that China already accounts for 20% of the world’s population (China’s population has tripled in size since it’s founding in 1949.), but where the government not only guarantees, but funds, a woman’s right to control her own body. The US, on the other hand, is one of only two countries in the world (Papua New Guinea is the other) that does not provide for paid maternity leave and even now operates the most expensive, and selectively available, health care system on the planet.

This kind of moral grandstanding is what our politicians discern to be worthy of their time? This, despite the reality that our prisons, part of the largest institution of incarceration in the world, are disproportionately filled with young men of color, an entire race of Americans feels compelled to call out selective use of force by the police, a single man can buy enough military-style weaponry to mow down more people than there are US governors, all because we nonetheless guarantee multi-millionaire professional athletes the right to kneel on the job during the playing of the national anthem.

I have nothing against kneeling, mind you, but I am deeply offended by hypocrisy. And that is why, no doubt, I felt so welcome during the nine years I lived in China. I was a foreigner, for sure. But the Chinese I met never pretended to be anything that they weren’t and that courtesy to be who we are was universally extended to my family and me as well.

The closing line in the Rubio/Smith letter actually made some sense to me. “President Trump would do well to remember, even in the midst of heightened diplomacy on North Korea (author: I’m really not sure where that comment is coming from. What diplomacy?), that governments which trample on the basic rights of their own citizens are unreliable international partners.”

Well said, Senator Rubio and Representative Smith. But who, exactly, are you referring to there? Us or them? As you and your colleagues have repeatedly taught us, the choices are digital. If we’re not with them we must be against them.

I only hope that the Chairman Xi Jinping and the leaders in Beijing don’t share that perspective.

header photo credit: iStock.com/quavondo

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
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Taiwan: Issues of Economics, Not Politics

Author Gary Moreau

On December 2 Tsai Ing-wen, the political leader of Taiwan, spoke by phone to President-elect Trump, igniting a firestorm of conjecture and no small amount of indignation. China lodged a formal complaint, as would be expected, but the incident seems to have gained far more media attention than it deserves. Nothing, in the end, is likely to come of it.

Taiwan, historically known as Formosa, is an island that lies approximately 140 miles to the east of the Chinese province of Fujian, with which it shares a common native dialect. It is home to 25 million people, roughly the population of Shanghai or Guangzhou, two of China’s larger urban centers.

The original inhabitants of Taiwan are thought to have journeyed from southern China and after a brief stint as a Dutch colony, the island fell under the rule of the Qing Dynasty until 1895, at which time the island was forcibly ceded to Japan as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War.

At the conclusion of World War II, most of China was still under the control of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang (KMT) government, to which the Allies gave control of the island. Mao Zedong and the Communists, however, ousted the KMT and created the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

At the time, Chiang Kai-shek and his followers fled to Taiwan and created the Republic of China (ROC). It is estimated that roughly 15% of Taiwan’s current population has ancestral ties to that one mass migration.

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To further muddy the waters of history, the KMT, after fleeing to Taiwan, initially claimed sovereignty over all of China, which it claimed it would ultimately re-occupy. The KMT was, in fact, given China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council and was recognized by many Western governments as the only legitimate government in China.

Mao Zedong, however, and virtually all subsequent Chinese leaders, never saw Taiwan as anything more than a renegade province that would eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. And that remains China’s official policy.

In 1971 the UN finally concurred and China’s seat on the Security Council was granted to Beijing. In 1979, moreover, the US and then-President Jimmy Carter formally severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, leaving the ROC in the political no-man’s-land in which it currently finds itself. No US president since has communicated directly with the leader of Taiwan.

And hence the flap. As far as China is concerned the move was akin to having the governor-elect of Missouri communicating directly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on matters of state.

But here’s where context becomes so important. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau are all governed on the principle of “One China.” They are officially part of China but have been given great latitude to operate independently, within limits, as long as that principle is not violated. Mainland Chinese can travel easily to both places but require some special documentation.

The problem in the West is that many people, including a good swath of the media, wants to see the One China policy done away with. To these folks, the overriding issues are political and individual freedoms. Many, as a result, are cheering Tsai Ing-wen on, just as they cheered on the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014.

What’s happening in Taiwan and Hong Kong, however, is not that different than what happened in the US during the 2016 presidential election, or during the Brexit vote, or even during the Italian vote this past weekend that led to the resignation of Italy’s PM. These are all economic movements driven by populist sentiment reacting to increasing income disparity, slow economic growth, and the growing sense by many that the country is leaving them behind. They are losing hope.

Contrary to a lot of the Western media innuendo, in fact, Tsai Ing-wen was not elected in May, 2016 on a platform of political independence from Beijing. She was elected on a platform of greater economic independence. Many young Taiwanese feel, as many feel elsewhere, that China’s burgeoning economy and financial strength might well squeeze them out of the career opportunities their parents enjoyed.

The simple reality is that no poll has demonstrated that anything beyond a small minority of Taiwanese want anything to do with political independence from China. They want an economic future, plain and simple.

I have done business in both Hong Kong and Taiwan and can tell you from firsthand experience that the idea of separating either territory from China is akin to wishing for the cessation of Texas. It’s not going to happen. And no one really wants it to. (There are always outliers, of course.)

Both Taiwan and Hong Kong are among the biggest investors in Mainland China. The financial districts of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are awash with Taiwanese and Hong Kong businessmen who have never had it so good. (Your Apple device was probably assembled in Mainland China by a Taiwanese company.)

The real lesson here, as well as in the US, is that people need to have hope. When they lose that, all is lost and they will ultimately do what they feel they must do to get it back.

No one – perhaps even the man himself – knows what Trump will actually do as President. And he unnecessarily added fuel to the Taiwan fire by tweeting about currency manipulation and the South China Sea. To date, however, I don’t believe he has done anything to sour the relationship between the US and China longer term. There is just too much at stake for both sides.

As in all of life, however, there are limits to everything.

Contact: You may reach the author at understandingchina@yahoo.com