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China Logic: A Guide to Uncivilized Behavior
Perhaps those guiltless panda-huggers in the West might even get red-faced, if not fizzled out, by Beijing’s uncivilized behavior at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Papua New Guinea, held in mid-November.
Beijing, apparently, felt stung by this clause in APEC’s draft joint statement: “We agree to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices.” Its four delegates, henceforth, attempted to barge into the PNG foreign minister’s office and coerce him to remove the wording.
To maintain its neutrality as the APEC host, the PNG foreign minister didn’t wish to meet with them privately and had to call the police to turn away these unwanted visitors at his door. Despite unanimous consent from all other 20 participating APEC members, China alone objected to this joint statement, thereby forcing the APEC summit for the first time to end without issuing a joint statement.
The communist regime’s thuggish conduct at the APEC summit was called “tantrum diplomacy.” London-based China Central TV (CCTV) reporter Kong Linlin shared many of the same traits as she staged eye-rolling “frenzy journalism” at the Tories’ annual conference in September on human rights in Hong Kong. Video footage of the 48-year-old Kong hysterically shouting at the meeting and violently slapping an organizer went viral, inviting worldwide attention and reactions.
The security staff had to physically remove Kong from the conference site, while she insisted on her “right to protest” in a “democratic UK.” Kong was briefly arrested by the police and now faces assault charges.
Her bizarre behavior, however, is being embraced as “heroic” by both the Chinese Embassy in London and by her employer, the state-run CCTV.
Some Chinese netizens, however, call the episode “the clash between the civilized and the uncultivated.” One Weibo post even challenged Kong to demonstrate her right to protest at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to find out whether China is democratic.
Zhang Pu, a Chinese writer based in the UK, told Radio Free Asia: “Kong Linlin has become a Communist Party internet celebrity. Any journalist sent overseas by the Chinese Communist Party has certain [political] duties.”
In other words, what Kong did in the UK, however unhinged it may be to the rest of the world, has certainly pleased her superiors and the Party in Beijing.
James Palmer, who once worked for the state-run Global Times, said, “I think Kong Linlin was putting on a display for her bosses in China, in an attempt to promote herself within the hierarchy of Chinese state media.” To the rest of the world, this off-the-wall behavior certainly looks like an odd way to climb the career ladder.
Not long ago, a Chinese family created a scene that caused some distress to the already strained Sino–Sweden relationship. On Sept. 2, they showed up at a Stockholm hostel the night before their booking, then screamed loudly and accused the police of brutality when they were removed from the hostel. The Chinese embassy in Sweden, as well as the state-run media, began to attack Sweden for discrimination.
That occurred against the backdrop of another tricky situation: Gui Minhai, a 54-year-old Swedish citizen who mysteriously disappeared while on holiday in Thailand in October 2015, was later confirmed to be in police custody inside China. Gui is one of the five Hong Kong publishers known for publishing “gossip” about Chinese leaders. Sweden, to this day, hasn’t been able to secure his freedom.
These days, “disappearances” can happen to just about anyone. In September, Meng Hongwei, president of Interpol, vanished during a visit to China from France. His wife, Grace Meng, said: “I’m not sure he’s alive,” as the last text message from her husband was an emoji of a knife.
Meng, former vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security, is under investigation for “corruption and other unspecified crimes,” according to the official government statement. Some Chinese posted on the internet: “As vice minister of public security, Meng once made many others disappear, and now, it is his turn to vanish.”
The 55th Golden Horse Awards, also known as the Chinese-language “Oscars,” were held in Taipei on Nov. 17, where Fu Yue, a Taiwanese documentary director, said in an acceptance speech that Taiwan should “be treated like a genuinely independent entity.” Her speech was apparently blocked from live TV in mainland China, but has stirred up a heated debate on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Later in the award ceremony, when two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee invited Gong Li, a China-born movie star and this year’s jury chair, to the stage to hand out awards, Gong declined, apparently out of fear of offending Beijing.
In fact, upon the completion of the Golden Horse ceremony, the entire flock of mainland Chinese actors, actresses, and directors skipped the scheduled awards dinner. The fear factor has made these celebrity attendees run for cover and stay out of the spotlight as a result.
To show loyalty to the party-state, some even reposted on their Weibo account the photo of “China, nothing less!” from the Communist Youth League in China. There is, however, one complication here: Like many Chinese celebrities, Gong is no longer a citizen of China and is listed on the program as an actress from Singapore. Chinese netizens are keenly aware of that fact, too, calling these foreign passport holders sham patriots of China.
This summer, top Chinese actress Fan Bingbing suddenly dropped out of sight and was reportedly taken away by the police for several months. Fan reappeared only after agreeing to pay a hefty fine of US$130 million for “tax evasion” and pledging her total loyalty to the party-state. That has certainly had a chilling impact on the entertainment industry in China.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen didn’t hesitate to comment on Facebook: “I’m proud of the Golden Horse ceremony yesterday because it accentuated how Taiwan is different from China.”
Writing the Script
Different and opposing voices, political or otherwise, are commonplace in democratic Taiwan, but this is obviously not the case in communist China, where political views and opinions from public figures and celebrities must conform to the party line if they wish to survive there. The state pressures explain why many of them have quietly acquired foreign citizenship for a sense of security, including the famous kung fu star Jet Li.
While people in mainland China and in Taiwan share the same language, culture, and ethnic roots, the two different political systems have nurtured over time two different types of citizens. This also appears to be true in the case of North Korea and South Korea.
These days, Western democracies are coming to realize that China hasn’t been following the same playbook as the rest of the world. Worse still, Beijing is now setting new norms and rules at will for others to observe. For instance, Beijing is able to dictate what movies Hollywood can produce, according to the article, “How China Controls Hollywood Scripts,” which appeared Nov. 19 in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The article cites the remake of the Cold War drama “Red Dawn” in 2012 and says its original script was to depict “Chinese enemies invading a U.S. town.” But the movie’s production had to be suspended after the “script was leaked and angered the Chinese state media.”
“In the end, MGM spent $1 million digitally erasing evidence of the Chinese army, frame by frame, and substituting in North Koreans instead,” the article stated.
As George Orwell wrote in “Nineteen Eighty-four,” with communism, “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” This is precisely the kind of logic the Chinese Communist Party is operating on, not only at home but, as we see from these examples, abroad as well.
John Ruskin, a Victorian thinker, once said, “Civilization is the making of civil persons.”
Yet, the barbaric communist dictatorship that willfully violates social and diplomatic conventions and common decency has no understanding of what it means to be civil. And it enslaves a population of 1.4 billion Chinese people. For humanity’s sake, people of good conscience should join forces now to bring an end to this modern-day evil regime.
***Peter Zhang focuses his research on political economy in China and East Asia. He is a graduate of Beijing International Studies University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow.
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