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Beijing Is Profiteering at Expense of the Public
Paul Lin

In the era of former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong, government officials often wished the public a "revolutionary Lunar New Year holiday," by which they meant that the public should exert an all-out effort for the party.

Today, although the CCP purports to have shifted to a market economy, it certainly has not forgotten its political roots. In fact, China intends to "reap" market benefits through "political means." This policy is even more hypocritical and shameful.

During the Lunar New Year, Chinese leaders put on a show for the public.

For example, Chinese President Hu Jintao recently performed a "seed-sowing" dance during a visit to Yenan.

Another example is China Central Television's (CCTV) variety program, The Same Song, which was broadcast on Jan. 23 in both the US and Canada.

These were all part of China's "united front" strategy, and were clearly broadcast with the intention of making overseas Chinese sing "the same song" as China's dictatorial regime. China even sought "sponsorship" from Taiwan's media, reaping both political and financial benefits.

CCTV claims that more than 700 million people watch its Lunar New Year celebration program every year. Even though the program has been mired in scandal on numerous occasions, the program, as an integral part of China's "united front" strategy, continues to be broadcast. Even the proposed gift of two pandas, which Taiwan has not yet agreed to accept, is an element of China's propaganda.

And even though China has long opposed the idea of democratic elections, it has pandered to Taiwan sensitivities in hosting a television program in which viewers could use SMS to vote on the panda's names.

What's more, the pandas have even been subjected to a "training program" to familiarize them with the sounds of Taiwanese speech. Clearly, China will stop at nothing to advance its "united front" strategy.

If CCTV was well aware of the propaganda value of its Lunar New Year show, it was also not blind to the potential for financial profit.

The government earned over 100 million yuan (US$12.4 million) from advertising and each SMS vote on the pandas' names cost the sender 1 yuan, bringing in a further 100 million yuan. The premium charge for SMS voting was not even announced in advance, even though the normal cost of sending an SMS message is 0.10 yuan.

Netizens have accused the government of shameless profiteering and imposing punitive fines on those who questioned the charge or were late in paying it.

Recently, China's Taiwan affairs officials have boasted that preferential policies have made Taiwanese forget about the "Anti-Secession" Law promulgated by Beijing last March. But how are these so-called preferential policies funded?

Quite simply, by the blood, sweat and tears of the Chinese people. But from the gift of the pandas and the high charge for voting on the pandas' names, we can see the greed and shamelessness of the leaders in Beijing.

Today, China uses its taxpayers' money to buy off Taiwan. If one day China governs Taiwan, it will similarly use Taiwanese taxpayers' money to buy off Western nations.

There are multinationals who have established sweat shops in China through complicity with the government there; we must ensure that Taiwan does not become just another sweatshop for China.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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