Showing posts with label international_affairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label international_affairs. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hong Kong residents and Taiwanese gather outside Hong Kong representative office in Taipei

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This morning, around the same time that protesters began amassing outside of Hong Kong's legislative council (LegCo) to protest the proposed extradition bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, a few hundred Taiwanese and Hong Kong residents gathered outside the Hong Kong representative office in Taipei between Songgao and Xinyi Roads (the office is located in the same building as eslite Xinyi).

I missed the first round of speeches by social activist groups and notable people - including former Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan - due to work. However, I came by later to find several dozen or perhaps a hundred people still there, braving the worsening rain to continue the demonstration.


Speeches continued after the official line-up had finished, with anyone who wanted the mike able to take it. Longtime expat Sean Kaiteri did so; I did not. In between speeches, a television set up under an awning played a feed of the escalating situation in Hong Kong.


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Most of the speeches were in Cantonese, so I couldn't really understand. A huge number of the protesters were also from Hong Kong - mostly students and interns unable to return to Hong Kong to join their friends and fellow citizens in Central. What struck me was that, while anyone with an ARC (Taiwan residency card) does have freedom of assembly - so they actually can participate in protests, just not organize them - it's a bit less clear if some of the students and interns are technically legally able to do so. Some are only here for a few months. Worryingly, there were reports and rumors of immigration police sweeping through. Otherwise, however, the police left the demonstrators alone and some people who appeared to work in the representative office appeared to be watching the demonstration from just beyond it.



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I had to leave to work on my dissertation, but as far as I know the demonstration is still going on. This isn't likely to end soon and looks like it's getting bad in Hong Kong, so keep your ears open. I suspect there will be more news to come. 


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Saturday, April 27, 2019

It's not just about calling Taiwan "China" as a destination (also, Air Canada sucks)

When Air Canada and other airlines around the world changed the way they listed Taiwan as a destination by labeling it incorrectly as "China", that was insult enough.

But another deeper issue is made worse by this change: that of mistaking Taiwanese for Chinese - that is, the Republic of China for the People's Republic of China - when they are trying to travel.

It's already happening, and rather than talk at you about it, I'm going to hand my platform over to someone this happened to recently. Her public Facebook post about the incident is in Mandarin, but no account exists in English. I'm providing one here (with my own translation):



I want to talk about the fact that I was denied boarding by Air Canada last month.

Recap:

My flight was from Toronto to Columbus Airport, then to Vancouver and back to Taiwan. I had already checked in online. When I went to check my bags, the ground staff first asked me if I had a tourist visa for Canada. I said that I'd applied for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) and the clerk then asked if I had nationality in the US or Canada. I didn't. Then she told me that this meant I wouldn't be able to fly. She explained that the ETA only allows me to fly into a single city in Canada, but my flight transfers across two Canadian cities, so I had to call customer service to change the ticket.

It took me 20-30 minutes to get through to customer service (the last time it took about an hour), and my boyfriend also helped me check the Canadian visa/ETA regulations so we could show them that the transfer was within 48 hours and therefore within regulation. The ground crew still denied boarding, and the boarding time passed.

Here's the truth of what happened:
I had no idea what was going on with the strange regulations regarding the ETA, which I'd never heard of before, and which Taiwanese citizens are clearly exempt from. After returning home, I immediately began searching for answers. I finally discovered that Canada has this requirement for "Chinese" citizens. Of course my passport is from the "Republic of China" (ed: which is not the same as "Chinese") and I became extremely angry! 

After returning to the airport two days later, the ground staff was going to refuse me again. After I disputed this with the staff, they gave me the good news: "ok, you can board" - but didn't seem embarrassed about their previous mistakes at all. I was furious all over again.  Of! Course! I! Always! Had! The! Right! To! Board! 

Air Canada's attitude in dealing with this?  Terrible ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (it deserves a hundred exclamation points).

The ground staff said the supervisor whom they queried at the time issued the rejection. The supervisor they said was on duty that day said that he was "not the supervisor that day". So I don't know why I was denied boarding, again and again. No one dares to tell me why I was rejected two days ago. Later on, with the same ETA, holding the same flight itinerary, this time I could fly, and nobody dared to just admit they'd confused Taiwan with China! ! ! ! ! ! (let's add another hundred exclamation points).


When I filled out the appeal form afterwards, I found that there was no Taiwan in the options for choosing nationality, only "Taiwan, China." Then I remembered that last year China put pressure on many airlines in the world to fall in line with the "One China Principle" (ed: China's policy that Taiwan is a part of China - not to be confused with the One China Policy). Perhaps this ridiculous mistake was caused by the fact that Taiwan is classified as 'China' in Air Canada's internal computer system. 

No one used to think that airlines had anything to do with politics. Just when you tell yourself that politics is just politics, that as you live your life doing other things like going out to eat or watching TV, and that politics is just a small part of that life - in the end, it turns out that everything is political.

I am even more curious whether you everyday people are really able to accept being treated as 'the same' as Chinese so readily. Are you really willing to sacrifice the existing rights you have as Taiwanese and become Chinese? As we reject the poor quality of 'Made in China' internationally*, do we have to give up being Made in Taiwan and be considered Made in China? 

*I think meaning, "when we stand up for ourselves as Taiwanese in the international arena and when China tries to force us back", but that's my own interpretation of what she means here as it sounds very metaphorical in a Taiwanese way


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

China won't do anything if you say 'no' to them

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I'm hoping to add to this list in the future, but willing to publish now - and here's what I want to say.

It's OK to say no to Beijing's demands regarding the naming and designation of Taiwan. China may push and whine and scream and threaten, but at the end of the day, if you hold the line, nothing comes of it. In specific, rare instances where it has, it's because an entire industry has caved and so the CCP can flex its muscles without worry.

Take the latest LSE sculpture controversy that Chinese students manufactured. As of now, The World Turned Upside Down has still not been changed. I can confirm this as of April 14th: 


Photo used with permission

No official decision has been made, but seeing as it's no longer in the news, I doubt it will continue to be an issue.

And what has Beijing threatened or done in retaliation?

Nothing. Nothing at all. I've checked every news source I can find on this, and there's nada. Zero.

LSE said they were going to shelve the issue, and silence reigned. The Economist intoned that China could threaten to cut off student enrollment as they said they might do at Oxford:


When Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of Oxford University, was asked by the Chinese embassy to prevent Lord Patten, the university’s chancellor (a largely ceremonial role), from visiting Hong Kong, she refused.... 
British universities have worked hard to court the Chinese, and the rush of students paying hefty international fees demonstrates the benefits of this approach. But as the LSE is now finding out, it is not without drawbacks. When threatened with receiving fewer Chinese students by the Chinese embassy, Ms Richardson of Oxford replied that there were many Indians who would be happy to take their place. 

But so far that has not materialized, and as far as I'm aware it never came to anything at Oxford, either. That allows us to add Oxford University to our list of institutions that have refused Chinese demands and suffered no real repercussions.

Then there was the incident at the Lions Club, which has chapters in Taiwan (in China, they have their own Lions Club which apparently cooperates with the Lions Club International). The China chapter tried to force the international organization to change Taiwan's designation...and failed.

Has there been any blowback against the Lions Club by Chinese authorities since?

As far as I can find, there has been none.

And here's one that may surprise you. Remember when we all thought that an Air New Zealand flight was denied landing in China because the Chinese government had requested that the airline change its designation of Taiwan to show it as part of China?

Turns out that's likely not the case. One website reported it, and everyone just took it as true. But even Reuters - that bastion of bad Taiwan reporting - didn't think there was enough evidence to the story to even report it as a possibility. And as The Guardian pointed out, there's no definitive evidence that this was the reason, and in fact reported that:


China’s foreign affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Air New Zealand flight had turned around on its own accord. “Due to temporary glitch in dispatchment, this airplane failed to obtain a landing permit with its destination and decided of its own accord to return en route.”

Beijing is quite clear on the line it takes with international airlines; it has no reason to lie about this.

So I went and checked. Guess what!

Air New Zealand still doesn't refer to Taiwan as a part of China. On its route map, it puts Taiwan in capital letters just as it does with every other country.



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At least in Taiwan, their website opens with a reference to Taiwan:


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...and Taipei is just referred to as "Taipei" as a destination they fly to, as with every other city.

 Are you hearing news reports about Air New Zealand being denied the ability to fly to China, because they never heeded the request that they change Taiwan's designation? No?

That's because it never happened. Air New Zealand doesn't call Taiwan "China" and yet they are still able to fly to several cities in China, and keep Shanghai as a hub!

What this means is that all those other airlines never actually had to change Taiwan's designation. There was no risk. There's no way China would have banned all of them, seeing as it won't even ban one.

The same could have been true for organizations that have already bent the knee to Emperor Xi - such as the international English proficiency testing organizations IELTS and TOEFL - I fail to see why they felt it was necessary. Do they really think China would ban IELTS or TOEFL testing? With all of the rich princelings that powerful parents want to send to study abroad? Please. There was no risk here; they just bent over because they like it rough, I suppose. If anything, organizations like IELTS bring pain on themselves when their own governments castigate them over their stupid decisions.

And, of course, while China might cause trouble for international news publications, the New York Times, The Economist and more who refer to Taiwan as "Taiwan" are already blocked in China. I suspect most would agree as well that censoring their content so as to appease China - assuring their reporters access or keeping their sites unblocked - would irreparably damage their credibility as sources of reputable journalism regardless. So, there is no reason going forward for them to make any changes either.

In short, let this be my announcement to the international organizations and businesses of the world: you don't have to give in to Beijing's demands on Taiwan.

It's clear that they don't actually do anything to retaliate if you show them the door.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

TENSIONS HAVE BEEN ENRISENED! (Or have they?)

At this point, we're all used to the skewed language that English-language media uses to talk about Taiwan. When the CCP does something to exacerbate tensions with Taiwan, or acts extremely offended over something going on here (including actions of individual Taiwanese citizens), the default seems to be that "tensions are rising" - no agent is named as the entity doing the raising. Or it's subtly implied the fault is Taiwan (e.g. "tensions have been rising under Taiwanese President Tsai", as though she's the one doing the escalating. She's not.)

Even when a story should be reported neutrally or with a critical eye to Chinese government's actions - as there is plenty of evidence of ill intent - the language used always exonerates Beijing and invites the reader to imagine that the other side is in the wrong. For example, here, we see language such as "soothe" and "calm" in the face of a "swipe" by a European leader (European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker). To read that, you'd think that the Europeans were hysterical - MEOW! - as cool and collected President Xi sought peace. Criticism of China's actions comes much later and is phrased dismissively ("which some see as" is basically newspaper code for "you can ignore those people"), even when more investigation into the intent and impact of these actions are merited.

Gee, you'd almost think the international media is wary of criticizing China, even when it would be right to do so. Huh!

So what happens, then, when there is absolutely no way to avoid pointing out that the CCP is the one exacerbating tensions? When no accurate language is possible that implies that these tensions just magically rise on their own, or perhaps they are the fault of Taiwan (or some other country "taking a swipe" at China)?

Consider this example from a few days ago:




There's just no way around it: without provocation, the PLAAF made an incursion into...well, I'm not sure if we can call it "Taiwan airspace" exactly (someone with more expert knowledge is welcome to fill me in) but violating an agreement like this - even a tacit one - is in fact intentional, provocative and reckless. MoFA is absolutely right.

And there's no way to write about that which takes the blame off of the CCP...or is there?

Local and regional news is reporting on it, but the top article (in the Japan Times) manages somehow to make Taiwan look like it's overreacting, when it absolutely isn't:



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"Provocative" in quotes can mean that they're just quoting MoFA's words, which is true, but they're called "scare quotes" for a reason: used this way they also imply that the words used don't accurately describe the situation. That's followed by "so-called" and "extremely rare" and a lot of talk about what China thinks, but none at all really about what Taiwan thinks and why it responded as it did. And while I'm happy they asked Bonnie Glaser about this, after some tired faff about the "renegade province" they go on to continue minimizing Beijing's actions as if to say "hey Taiwan, why so serious? It's not a big deal. Don't make this into a whole big thing - you wouldn't want to raise tensions, would you?"

When anybody who is aware of China's actions in the 1990s know that they were meant to scare newly democratic Taiwan into, um...not being democratic. You'll recall that there were also missile tests then, and they were intended as an oblique threat to Taiwan. It was terrifying and kind of a big deal. I remember hearing about it as a teenager in the US who had no relationship to or conception of Taiwan. It was a big deal then and it is a big deal now.


And that's not even getting into SCMP's use of language: "hardline" etc.  - to make Taiwan look like the fire-starter. Plus this steaming turd:

Analysts in Taiwan said, while it remained to be seen how Beijing would react to the order to forcefully disperse any future incursion by PLA jets, Tsai could risk setting off a cross-strait conflict which might drag Washington into the situation [emphasis mine].

Excuse me, ahem.

HOW IS TSAI "RISKING SETTING OFF A CROSS-STRAIT CONFLICT" WHEN IT IS CHINESE PLANES STARTING THE CONFLICT??

Seriously, Lawrence Chung and Liu Zhen, what the hell is wrong with you?

Then there's this, from Channel News Asia:


Taipei hit out at China on Sunday (Mar 31) for what it said was a "reckless and provocative" incursion by two fighter jets across a largely respected line dividing the two sides in the Taiwan Strait [emphasis mine].

Excuuuuse me. No. 

China hit out at Taiwan, not the other way around. Why do you lead with an implication that China's the one being provoked, rather than the provocateur? (The rest of the piece is a little bit better, giving some good reasons why Taiwan needs to procure better defensive capabilities and discussing Chinese pressure, though I wonder why they say Tsai will be "fighting" for re-election rather than merely "running").

Outside of Asia, the reporting has been spottier. The Washington Post (via AP), MSN, CNN and ABC News ran stories (mostly copies of each other) which are a bit better than the crap from SCMP and Japan Times. I'm not a fan of the use of "scrambled" (to me it connotes haphazard surprise with a whiff of incompetence) but I'm told it's the correct term. So...okay.

The New York Times ran a Reuters feed which has some of the usual Reuters junk, including this gem:


There was no immediate reaction from Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its territory.

I...what?

Didn't Beijing do the action that Taiwan is reacting to? So why are you reporting it as though Beijing is not reacting to Taiwan? Is Beijing's reaction to Taiwan's reaction really so important that it needs its own one-line paragraph? Did I just use up one of my free NYT articles reading this garbage?

To their credit, the Washington Post and ABC News started out with strong reporting on what Taiwan thinks, rather than showing everything the issue through the CCP's preferred lens. Read those to see how it's done right (though WaPo's reporting dives into a little 1949 nonsense toward the end).


But BBC? The Guardian? Anyone else? Anyone home? Hello?

Silence.

(I Googled and checked the sites of each and found nothing; if I've missed something, let me know.)

Edit: BBC is in the game two days late with a bit more trash for the fire.



How do these growing tensions relate to the deepening differences between Washington and Beijing?

Huh - it's like they don't even care about how this might impact Taiwan or its 23.5 million people.

Taiwan - of course - is seen by Beijing as an inseparable part of China; its separation from the motherland merely a temporary phenomenon.

WHY "OF COURSE" AND WHY DID YOU ADD MORE JUNK TO THIS ALREADY JUNKY PREMISE?



This weekend's incursion by Chinese warplanes is a reminder of the dangerous Taiwan dimension as well.

There is no "dangerous Taiwan dimension", there is only the "dangerous Chinese expansionism dimension". Why are you making it sound as though this is somehow Taiwan's fault?

For everyone else, why aren't they reporting it?

Maybe they just didn't think it was big enough news, although you'd think an incursion over a tacitly-agreed border which prompted a 10-minute stand-off and a reaction from Taiwan that they will "forcefully expel" any further violations, in one of the biggest the biggest potential flashpoint in East Asia would be, uh, news.

Though I doubt it would be this purposeful, I have to wonder if they shy away from any reporting on China and Taiwan that makes China look bad. Even if the impulse to do so is subconscious, it seems that tensions must always be everyone's fault except China's.

Of course, though most media can't seem to wrap its head around the notion that Taiwan may have an opinion about this and that opinion matters, there seems to always be space to run stories about Beijing lashing out at the US as the reason why it bullies Taiwan (and then denying said bullying).

So we get headlines like "Chinese State Media Blames US For Stirring Trouble in Taiwan", because apparently Chinese propaganda is newsworthy on an international scale, but how Chinese incursions on Taiwan affect Taiwan isn't. 


It's almost certainly not a war-starter, but it is a deliberate instigation. Leading up to the 2020 election we can expect to see more of them, as the CCP attempts to terrify the Taiwanese away from voting for the party that wants to guarantee their sovereignty, and into the arms of a pro-Beijing bloviator that China can manipulate. And, of course, it puts Taiwan in a tough position: respond and risk looking like they are overreacting, or ignore it, which basically gives them the green light to keep ramping up their provocations.

So why is half the world still reporting on it bewildering and frankly disconcerting ways that somehow make it sound as though this - even this! - is either not a big deal, or somehow Taiwan's fault?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Nobody should need a personal "refugee fund" to feel safe in a developed democracy

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Hey Taiwan residents - both foreign and local - do you have a refugee fund?

That is, personal savings or some other safety net that you are preparing in the event that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan forces you to leave?


I do. I don't want to leave, and would not do so unless I absolutely had to - we're not talking "the invasion is coming soon", we're talking "my house just got bombed, people are dying and I have nowhere to go." And I only mean that in the event that I am not a citizen: I don't owe my life to a country that won't even give me a passport. If I had obtained Taiwanese citizenship by that point, however, that's a different obligation and I would stay and fight.
The money I have set aside could be used as a down payment on property. If I don't need it, it will be part of my retirement fund. I could use it to pay off my student loans. There are a million other things I could do with it, but I may need it for this purpose and don't feel safe not having it available, so here we are. 

Of course I'm very privileged that I'd even be able to leave (a lot of locals would not be) and that the money is there, but here's the thing.

I should not need to set aside money specifically for my escape from a free and developed democracy due to a highly possible invasion by a hostile foreign power. Nobody should have to.

Not in a country that actively wants to exist in peace, and has no desire to start any wars with any other nation. 


I should not need to wonder, quite pragmatically, whether the rest of the world will tolerate a brutal dictatorship violently annexing the world's 22nd largest economy, one of the US's top trading partners, with a population comparable to that of Australia which is free, basically well-run and friendly to other nations. I should not need to consider whether my decision to stay or go - and the money I need to do that - may well hinge on whether that help comes. 


I'm reasonably sure all of my friends in Taiwan - local and foreign - can understand this.

I am not sure at all that my friends abroad do, though. I'm not sure especially if people I know in the US, Europe, Japan (all developed countries/regions, a group in which Taiwan also qualifies) and beyond are aware of what it's like to have a practical, non-insane notion that they might have 30 days' notice that their life and livelihood as they know it is about to be over. Where "getting out" and losing everything would be the better outcome, and how many more people (again, the population of Australia) might not even have that option.


So I still hear things like "oh but you don't want US help, it'd be just like Iraq or Syria, they'd wreck the place!" or "I don't want your city to become another Fallujah."

Do they understand that it is China who would turn Taipei into an East Asian Fallujah? 


And that their and their governments' wishy-washy response to Chinese threats against Taiwan are a part of why I need to have this fund at all? 

That they think they support peace, but in fact they'd leave us (foreign residents and Taiwanese both) to run or die in war? Do they understand what it would be like for Taiwan to be forcibly annexed by China? Do they understand that giving in and just surrendering to authoritarian rule - and the loss of very real and important freedom and human rights - is not an option? That there is no One Country, Two Systems?

Over the past few years I've come to realize that while at heart I want to be a dove, I can't. Sure, I agree that the US is a neo-imperialist murder machine. Fine. We suck. I won't even argue that we don't. We've done so much harm in the world.

But Taiwan is not Iraq. It's not Syria, it's not Iran or Afghanistan or Central America. It's just not. It's not even comparable. It has its own military and simply needs assistance (or the promise of it, to keep China from attempting an invasion). It has its own successful democratic government and rule of law (I mean...basically. Taiwan does okay.) There'd be no democracy-building or post-war occupation needed. It just needs friends. Big friends, who can tell the bully to back off.

So, y'know, I don't give a crap anymore about anyone's "but the US is evil!" I just don't. Y'all are not wrong, but it simply does not matter. China wants to wreck this country, not the US. China's the invader and (authoritarian) government-builder, not the US. China will turn their guns and bombs on Taiwanese, not the US.

And if you're not the one who has all those missiles pointed at them, you're not the one with lots of friends who could lose everything (including their lives), or lose everything yourself, and you're not the one actively building a refugee fund to escape an otherwise peaceful, developed and friendly country, then you can take all that "but the US is evil!" and shove it. This is a real world situation where we don't exactly have the luxury of choice in who stands by us. There isn't a "better option". There just...isn't.

Unless you think a friendly, open and vibrant democracy being swallowed by a massive dictatorship and losing all access to human rights is totally fine, or that having a refugee fund when living in said open democratic nation is normal.

It's not normal. My refugee fund should not have to exist. Please understand this. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Even policy wonks legitimize China and delegitimize Taiwan

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Something very specific has been bothering me about this policy paper on "Taiwan's Democracy and the China Challenge", published in 2018 by Richard Bush and Ryan Hass.

For awhile, I couldn't pinpoint what didn't sit right, but despite seeming like a wonkish paper that ostensibly made recommendations in Taiwan's best interest, it somehow seemed to do the opposite.

After some thought, I've isolated what's wrong. Take a look at some of the language from the very end of the paper, quoted below.

To China, they say:

Take seriously the views of the Taiwan public (however discordant they may sometimes seem) and the centrality of the democratic system through which those views are expressed (despite its weaknesses). If China is ultimately to achieve its objectives concerning Taiwan, that will require fundamental changes, which in some cases will require amendments to the ROC constitution, which in turn can only occur if there is a very broad public consensus that those changes are in their interests. (Emphasis mine).

To Taiwan, among other more reasonable things, they say:
Maintain a consistent declaratory policy of not supporting Taiwan independence and opposing efforts by either side of the Taiwan Strait to alter the status quo.

The problem is that these two pieces of advice take for granted that China "ultimately achiev[ing] its objectives” is seen as a possible fair outcome, but in which the objective of Taiwan must be opposed.

This is a clear double standard, treating Beijing’s goals as acceptable and Taiwan’s as mere provocation, and reframes Taiwanese de jure independence as a goal of the government, not the will of the people.

And it is the will of the people. Data consistently shows support for Taiwan maintaining its sovereignty. This is expressed as "support for the status quo", but everyone knows that the status quo not a permanent solution and cannot hold forever, as China has made it clear that it will invade Taiwan if it must (or if Taiwan takes too long in surrendering everything it has fought for - freedom, democracy, human rights, gender equality, same-sex marriage, all of it).

The status quo also describes a state in which Taiwan is already sovereign. In other words, what these polls show is that Taiwanese want to keep the sovereignty they already enjoy and already see themselves as independent.

Consider this alongside consistent lack of support for unification with China, and this survey showing that a majority of Taiwanese would fight in the event of a Chinese invasion (I don't know how sound or flawed the survey was, but my anecdotal experience supports the results). Consider as well the fact that Taiwanese people are still not given a way to express their desire for independence, as changing the name of their country from "the Republic of China" to "Taiwan" could well precipitate a war with China: an outcome nobody (except possibly China) wants. As I've said before: to tell Taiwan that it cannot change its status due to threat of war, and then to say that their current status as the "ROC" means they must want to be "a part of China" is an insidious and unfair Catch-22.

Put another way:

The ROC provides protective (if misleading) cover, staving off invasion by maintaining the polite political fiction that the Taiwanese have not already declared their wish to be recognized as separate and independent.


How can a policy paper that claims to address challenges to Taiwan's democracy be taken seriously, when China's goals are given legitimacy as something that may be achieved, but Taiwan's are dismissed as hogwash, not even acknowledged to be the will of the people? The CCP's goals are ultimately the will of the party as the Chinese people don't get a say, and yet they are treated as the goals of China. The public will of the Taiwanese people is, in fact, the will of the country (messy and divided as it may seem, on this point things are pretty clear), and yet it is treated as simply the messaging of a few wayward politicians.

This is deeply unfair, if not deliberately misguided. It is not the position of a true friend of Taiwan, and not even reflective of the truth of Taiwan's position.

I can only think that Bush and Hass, despite claiming to care about the future of Taiwan, see the best or only possible outcome to be some sort of integration with China - they are quite willing to ignore what the Taiwanese themselves actually want. Perhaps this is because Bush and Hass don't have to live in the simmering mess of this unresolved conflict, a situation which they and people like them helped create. In any case, they aren't considering the feelings of the Taiwanese themselves.

Further to this, the notion that the necessary "amendments to the ROC constitution" for China to win this cold war require a "very broad public consensus that those changes are in their interests" is a garbage barge of poorly-considered perspectives. I would have expected better from two respected experts.

I cannot imagine any situation - short of the unlikely fall of the People's Republic of China - in which these necessary changes could ever be in the interests of the people of Taiwan, nor any future in which the Taiwanese would agree to them freely. Look at how China is treating Hong Kong: do Bush and Hass honestly think that Taiwan could ever trust China to safeguard their best interests? If so, what rock are they living under? 


Finally, here is what bothers me the most: experts like Bush go off on a writing bender whenever Taiwan so much as pipes up that it would like independence, thank you very much, which isn't even a controversial position in Taiwan (and shouldn't be on a global scale, either, seeing as they already have it). And yet, whenever China starts frothing at the mouth about Taiwan, talking about how it "cannot renounce the use of force" or that "Taiwan and China must and will be reunited", these same people who claim to care about Taiwan are silent. 

Why?

Monday, February 25, 2019

"If it's Taiwan today, people should ask 'who's next'?": full video of Tsai Ing-wen's CNN interview and comments

So, if you're like and don't have a TV, so can't necessarily watch something when it's on TV, you may be disappointed in the 4 minutes or so of footage across two videos of President Tsai's CNN interview on CNN's official feed.

The good news is that an awesome guy I don't know is here to help! You can watch the full video here.


Apparently two well-known analysts in Taiwan went in on ICRT about the interview (one thinking positively of it, the other negatively), though I haven't listened to the whole thing yet. 

I have a few thoughts myself. Tsai herself, in my opinion, performed admirably. To a Western audience - the people this is actually aimed at - she came across as reasonable, pragmatic, even-keeled and intelligent (all things she truly is). She made a very strong case for Taiwan as a beacon of democracy and freedom, and was very clear on the threat from China and why it should matter to the world, without any 'troublemaking' rhetoric. More time could have been spent on marriage equality  - as far as I can tell, it wasn't mentioned  - though I may have just missed it - to really hammer home the idea of Taiwan as 'liberal beacon in Asia' (it's not that liberal by Western standards but by Asian standards, it kind of is). She also makes a strong case for closer communication and stronger relations with Taiwan, without seeming desperate or begging.

She makes it clear that Taiwan does have its own military capability and can withstand a first wave of attacks. This is essential - we need to show the world that Taiwan does take its defense seriously and would not simply beg the world to defend it as it stood by, helpless and unwilling to stand up for itself.

"If it's Taiwan today, people should ask, 'who's next'?" - I truly don't think one can make a stronger case, and it was delivered succinctly and clearly.

Her point that Taiwan is the only democracy in the Chinese-speaking world, and it produced a female leader, so we need to quit it with thinking women are limited in what they can do is a strong one. By going meta with the 'questions about being a female leader of a country' trope and acknowledging it, with her basically saying 'what I think about such questions don't matter, I have an obligation to answer them until female leaders are totally normalized' (paraphrased), she shows that she always considers her role carefully as a leader rather than giving in to her personal feelings. To Americans who may be sick of seeing the puerile, vengeful, personal spewings of their own president, this is likely to play well.

She showed that she does speak fluent English, but wisely moved back to Mandarin for the more complex questions. This will also play well to a Western audience.

Tsai is quite good at this kind of interview, where she almost certainly prepares careful responses to known topics in advance, and where a questioner prompts her on various topics so she doesn't get too bogged down in technocratic wonkery.

I'll admit that by giving careful answers that kind of evade the meat of the questions asked - on whether Taiwan counts on US support in the face of a Chinese invasion, on whether Trump is an unreliable ally - she does come across as just another 'politician' to some extent. She doesn't really answer these questions, and I would have liked a stronger stance on Taiwanese not favoring unification, now or ever. That said, I think any half-intelligent viewer will understand that her country is in a precarious position. In a situation where a single misplaced word can infuriate China, her 'careful' approach is simply necessary.

All that said, the average Westerner interested enough to watch this interview would, in my estimation, be persuaded that Taiwan is worth taking seriously and its leader is not an 'extremist', an 'ethnic nationalist/separatist' or a hotheaded despot, but the pragmatic, serious, hard-headed and slightly nerdy (okay, very nerdy - that karaoke comment about reading while her friends sang...wow) democratically elected leader of a proud, free society.

That doesn't mean I feel so positive about the whole interview. While I am very pleased with how Tsai presents herself, I'm less of a fan of the historical interludes about the Taiwan-China situation, and some of the language that the interviewer used (namely the terms "reunification" and "mainland").

No one thing the presenter said was wrong, regarding what happened in 1949, the change in diplomatic ties, that Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China, or who the US recognizes as 'the sole China' now and why. No one fact was off-base.

But taken together, it presents an image of Taiwanese history that I can't endorse as accurate: there are several lies of omission that seem like minor details but are in fact pivotal to an accurate telling of Taiwan's story. If included, such details would change the overall narrative of Taiwanese history to such a great degree that leaving them out feels false.

Imagine if, instead of the usual "1949", "two Chinas", "the Republic of China still claims" narrative without any key details, the presenter had said something like this:

"Taiwan had been a Japanese colony until the end of World War II, when the Allied Powers allowed the Republic of China to accept Japan's surrender on their behalf and govern Taiwan, amid some controversy. The Nationalists and their leader, Chiang Kai-shek, who controlled Republic of China, were then defeated by the Communists under Mao Zedong, who founded the People's Republic of China. The Nationalists fled to Taiwan, claiming to be the 'sole' government of the 'true' China. Both leaders of these "two Chinas" were military dictatorships marked by oppression and mass murder. The United States recognized the Republic of China on Taiwan, under Chiang Kai-shek, until the late 1970s, when it switched recognition to the PRC in Beijing. Since then, China has continued on a trajectory of dictatorship while Taiwan has democratized and liberalized, with many Taiwanese no longer identifying as 'Chinese'. Polls in Taiwan show consistent support for a separate Taiwanese national and cultural identity. Some in Washington say that in light of this, it's time to re-assess US policy in the region, which..."

Same basic facts, but with pertinent details centered in the narrative, it tells quite a different story, doesn't it?

But, hey.

We can't get everything we want, so I can only hope that during the 'historical' interludes, American viewers went to the kitchen to get more chips. 


In the end, it doesn't matter as much as Tsai comporting herself well, which she clearly did. Taiwan needs to present a clear case to the world that it is worth taking seriously and aiding if necessary. I never thought I'd say Tsai Ing-wen was the public speaker who could accomplish much of anything (she's not a great speaker), but...I could be wrong. She's exactly the face Taiwan needs to show to the West. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Where Richard Bush is right, and where he is wrong

IMG_1803


Let me start out by saying that I don't think China expert (which somehow includes Taiwan? I mean, being the former AIT chair makes that okay, but they are not the same thing) Richard Bush is a Confucius McDoorknob. We can all agree that he is deeply credible.

So, let me be kind, and start with the ways that his two most recent articles (here and here) are right, before talking about the ways that they aren't.

In the first article, he's quite right that Tsai has been doing an excellent job of managing cross-strait relations, using caution most of the time, but snapping back like a bad-ass she-wolf at the appropriate times. This is just right, and Bush and the US are right to support her:


In my view, one of the reasons that the United States has expressed support for President Tsai and her administration is precisely because she is cautious and careful. She does not take the U.S. commitment for granted and understands the value of close communication.


He's also right that a referendum on de jure Taiwanese independence is a terrible idea.

Frozen Garlic covered why referendums are not the direct-democracy saviors their supporters make them out to be in the context of energy policy; it really covers referendums as a problematic tool more generally, though, and I highly suggest reading it.

Echoing Froze, Bush points out:


When it comes to democratic mechanisms, none is perfect in my view. Whether it is indirect democracy in a legislature or direct democracy through a referendum, distortion and manipulation of the popular will occurs. So a referendum is not necessarily better than other mechanisms.

If referendums are to be employed on routine policy issues, in my view, they should be crafted in a way so the result truly reflects the view of the majority of all citizens. I’m not sure one can say that about the referendums that were held on November 24 last year.


All the more so when the referendum is on questions regarding the fundamental identity of a state and a nation. For these, it is a good thing to set a high bar for authorizing a referendum and passing a referendum. The stakes are so high and the consequences of being wrong are so great, that it is appropriate—even mandatory—to require a broad public consensus through a super-majority for passage. Witness the trouble that Great Britain is now in because only a simple majority of those voting for Brexit was required for passage.



There are other reasons why it's a bad move, as well: first, that it would take a willfully blind person or someone invested in an outcome they are not openly articulating to say that Tsai is not working toward setting the fundamentals in motion for eventual de jure independence. It's not even reasonable to say she's moving too slowly; this is the pace you have to move at when you are threatened by a nasty bully just a few hundred miles away with missiles pointed at you.

It doesn't take a genius to understand that Taiwan has to make choices based in its real situation, not in how it would like the world to be right now.

The only reasonable criticism, then, is that she's not doing a particularly good job of 'selling' her way of doing things to the public. I do understand this is difficult: the deep blues already think this is the GREEN TERROR (it's not, and that phrase doesn't mean anything) and the deep greens are in fantasyland - they'd rather do what feels good than work in concrete ways toward a future for Taiwan. But it does feel as though she hasn't really tried.

So to say that what's needed is a bing-bam-boom REFERENDUM! goes beyond wishful thinking - in some ways it's straight-up childish.

And, of course, it's a bad move because it will probably fail. I mean, look at how easily the tide turned on the referendum to end the use of "Chinese Taipei" (which realistically would have meant applying to stop using that name - there's no way it would have been accepted). All it took was the IOC being a bunch of whiny buttclowns and the Taiwanese Olympic athletes coming out against the change to get the Taiwanese not to vote for a referendum that would have symbolically told the world that they think "Chinese Taipei" is a preposterous name, which it objectively is.

If we can't even pass "what the hell is Chinese Taipei?", how are we going to pass this? We're not. That doesn't mean the Taiwanese electorate doesn't generally support independence; most people do.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, he's right about Taiwan having to take into account the political situation in the US and what they will and will not realistically offer Taiwan.

Yeah I know I just puked in my mouth saying that too, but it doesn't make it untrue.

From the "open letter":


I do not know how firm the Trump administration’s commitment to Taiwan’s defense would be if military conflict were likely. There are certainly those who see Taiwan as a useful asset in its campaign to resist what they regard as China’s revisionist objectives. But valuing Taiwan’s partnership in this way is not the same thing as giving Taiwan, or political forces in Taiwan, a green light to act unilaterally to change the status quo, a principle that remains a central element of U.S. policy.

I do know that President Trump himself is skeptical about any U.S. security commitment to Taiwan. At a meeting of the National Security Council on January 19, 2018, Mr. Trump asked his senior national security team, “even more than [Korea], what do we get from protecting Taiwan?” The implication of that question is the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is not justified, as far as he is concerned. I have seen no evidence that this skepticism has changed. It is consistent with his long-standing opposition to U.S. defense commitments to U.S. friends and allies. 



and from the "let's not invite Tsai to speak" article, which I think was easily the worse of the two:


Make no mistake: The United States should continuously find ways to improve relations with Taiwan. We need to improve our economic relationship and help Taiwan effectively enhance its deterrence against China. That requires engaging Taiwan leaders on how they realistically believe American can help them, not how we think we should help. Forty years of American experience in conducting U.S.-China relations has demonstrated the need to be skillful and sometimes stealthy in our Taiwan diplomacy. Public symbols, deftly deployed, are important in relations with Taiwan, but substance is far more important.


In short, when talking about how to improve the chances of a truly independent future for Taiwan, it is simply smart to consider the US position as Taiwan's most powerful potential ally. I don't like it any more than you do, but whether or not the US will ultimately stand up for Taiwan does matter. At the very least it forces Taiwan to consider what it has at its own disposal when making decisions rather than assuming that its underdog status is so sympathetic and its cause so just (though it is) that of course anyone who truly cares about a free and democratic world will, in the end, stand by us. But that is not at all assured. It's not right and it's not fair, but it is sadly true. 

And, of course, he was smart to point out that the call to invite Tsai to address Congress originated with a group of US Senators, and it's not clear that Tsai herself thinks its a good idea:


The third flaw in this initiative is its disregard for Taiwan’s view. I’m guessing here, but I suspect that the authors did not ask President Tsai if she thought this was a good idea—and, if they did ask, they didn’t listen very carefully to her answer. President Tsai is responsible for the prosperity and safety of 23 million people. She understands that she must maintain some degree of balance between relations with the United States on the one hand and relations with China on the other. Clearly, relations with China are not as good as she might like them to be, but I believe she would not wish to risk a further, serious deterioration in relations with Beijing unless it brought it an extraordinary benefit.


But I have to say, there are a lot of ways in which Bush is straight-up dead-ass what-the-hell wrong.

Starting with the quote above, what's up with the fallacy that Tsai can do much, if anything, about deteriorating relations with Beijing. They're going to treat Taiwan like garbage no matter what she does because they simply don't like her, the DPP, or the Taiwan consensus. Relations are deteriorating because Beijing is deteriorating them, and that's not going to change.

Along these lines, and alongside some pretty solid wisdom, Bush is also selling some Grade A snake oil. Reading these articles is like going to your Harvard-educated doctor who effectively treats an infection with modern medicine, and then recommends you get your humors balanced.

Let's start with the top shelf dippery:


The first aspect is that the proposal touches on the national interests of the United States, specifically its abiding interest in peace and security in the Taiwan area and its longstanding view that neither side of the Taiwan Strait should try unilaterally to change the status quo.


and:



You will recall that President Bush publicly criticized Mr. Chen in December 2003 for trying to unilaterally change the status quo. In September 2007, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen warned that Mr. Chen was putting Taiwan’s security at stake for the sake of the DPP’s electoral advantage.


These points pre-suppose that the status quo can potentially be changed bilaterally, or in some way other than unilaterally (and that the DPP fights the status quo "for its electoral advantage" rather than because they, and most Taiwanese, actually believe in working toward an independent Taiwan).


This is false.

It's not only false, it's dangerous to buy into. It will never happen. There's no game to play here, no potential winning strategy in which, if Taiwan negotiates with China in just the right way, or plays nice to just the right CCP officials, that there will be a breakthrough and a permanent situation of peace and Taiwan's assured autonomy would tumble from the heavens, rejoice! 

China. Will. NEVER. Agree. To. A. Bilateral. Solution. That. Taiwan. Can. Accept.

Ever. 

Well, unless the CCP falls in an inglorious revolution, but that would create so much instability and uncertainty (a dying CCP who invades Taiwan as a last-ditch effort to distract its own people from the situation about to boil over at home?) that it's not exactly desirable either. Slow reforms and so-called "bloodless" democratization/liberalization are even less likely, at least not on any timeline that will be viable.

That leaves three possible solutions that Bush is assiduously trying to avoid admitting to:

a.) war
b.) perpetual status quo
c.) some non-war-starting way of unilaterally changing the status quo

(The idea of peaceful unification is as much a non-starter as China agreeing bilaterally to Taiwanese independence: Taiwan would never accept it).

War is possible, but quite wisely, nobody (except perhaps China) wants to pursue it, so let's leave it aside. The perpetual status quo is a chimaera. It seems real enough but can't last. There's just no way that Taiwan's current situation is permanently tenable. This is because while the CCP as a whole may not be in any great rush to try to annex Taiwan, Xi Jinping harps on it in a way reminiscent of Chiang Kai-shek before anyone took him seriously. It seems unlikely to me that he'll run China for the rest of his life without at least making an attempt to accomplish it. And yet, the Taiwanese overwhelmingly support independence (whether de facto or de jure). They may vote for politicians who say otherwise, for other reasons, but when those politicians make concrete moves towards integrating with China, watch how their fortunes change.

So what does that leave us? Option C. I have no idea how we cause that to come about, but seeing as I don't see any "bilateral" way of changing anything between Taiwan and China, we can't take any potential future unilateral action off the table.

That Bush wants to imply that this is not Taiwan's reality, and that a bilateral solution may be possible, is dangerous wishful thinking at best, and straight-up snake oil served by gaslight at worst.

And, while I appreciate that Taiwan must take the US's position into consideration, I balk at the implication that we should prioritize the US-China relationship as though it is somehow more important to Taiwan than the question of its own continued sovereignty:


If the president of Taiwan were to speak to a joint meeting of Congress, any U.S. claim that its relations with Taiwan were unofficial would ring completely hollow. China would interpret the move as Washington’s reneging on the fundamental bargain at the heart of U.S.-PRC relations. Although I cannot predict exactly what Beijing would do in response, a radical downgrading of the relationship would be likely. Any hope that President Trump would have of cutting a trade deal with his New Best Friend Xi Jinping would vanish. U.S. requests for Chinese assistance concerning North Korea would fall on very deaf ears. Many sectors of American society that still value the U.S.-China relationship would be hurt. American multinationals that rely on China as a market or production platform would be vulnerable to retaliation, with attendant effects on jobs and profits.


Yeah okay but now you're starting to make it sound as though US corporate profits are Taiwan's chief concern, or that we should be worried about the US-China relationship for its own sake, beyond what it portends for the US-Taiwan relationship (or the Taiwan-China relationship).


We don't. I don't care about a trade deal between the US and China beyond its potential impact on Taiwan, and I don't care about the "fundamental bargain at the heart of US-China relations" because it's a crap bargain. I want US to normalize and make official relations with Taiwan, so why would any Taiwan-prioritizing readers take this paragraph seriously?

I mean, I get it, this is aimed as much at a US political audience as a Taiwan one, but as someone who prioritizes Taiwan, it is deeply unconvincing. Poor babies. It might hurt your profits. Oh noes. Oh wait, I don't care.

Finally, I'll also say that this simply can't be argued with, but is still deeply problematic for reasons explained below:


Also, neither you nor I can control how the Beijing government interprets developments on Taiwan and whether they trigger Article 8 of the Anti-Secession Law.


What bothers me about it is that he comes so close to understanding a deeper truth about China: that they are going to treat Taiwan like crap no matter what, and Taiwan can't control that (the US, in theory, could influence it in some way - if it wanted to. It doesn't.)

But no, he stops there, and then promptly trots out the same old blather implying that Taiwan not only can, but should, play this game with China:


The second flaw in this proposal [for Tsai to address Congress] is Taiwan would suffer. This initiative began in the United States, and Beijing would take the opportunity to pressure and squeeze Taiwan even more than it is already doing. It would likely find ways to get the small number of countries that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei to switch to the PRC. Taiwan-directed exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army would intensify. China’s efforts to interfere in Taiwan’s domestic politics would increase. So, a gesture that senators intended to help Taiwan would only hurt it.


Taiwan is going to "suffer" no matter what. China will "squeeze" Taiwan no matter what. They will try to poach our (well, the ROC's) diplomatic allies no matter what (and I'm not sure how much I care - it's not like those countries recognize Taiwan. They recognize the ROC as China, which is not the same thing really). Taiwan-directed exercises by the PLA will probably intensify no matter what, and Xi's anti-Taiwan rhetoric will escalate no matter what. So while I admire Bush's genuine concern for Taiwan, he's coming at it in not only a wrong, but condescending way - as though we don't see for ourselves that China is already doing the things he is threatening China will do.

Let me repeat:

China is going to increasingly treat Taiwan like garbage no matter what Taiwan does, and there is nothing acceptable to the Taiwanese electorate that Taiwan can do to stop it. 

So if the CCP is going to continue to be a bunch of glass-hearted pissbabies, and they are going to increase their bullying of Taiwan regardless, then dude.

Let them.

And don't buy into the illusory nonsense that if Taiwan just plays footsie in the right way, it can negotiate a better outcome for itself or somehow convince China to stop being such a jag-off. This will never happen.

The only way to win this game is not to play. I support Tsai because, while it looks like she's playing China's game, she in fact has her own deck of cards and is playing her own long hand. China's not even invited to the poker table.

So let's keep not playing. Let's not make any rash moves, and let's stop tearing ourselves apart because some people need to prove that they are more ideologically "pure" rather than seeking realistic, practical solutions that lay the groundwork for a future that includes an independent Taiwan.

But holy mother of god, let's not buy any "but China will be mad and you can't make any unilateral changes!" garbage.

We know better and we will not be fooled.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Swedish citizen Gui Minhai has been held by China for three years and Sweden has been super weird about it

Untitled
Gui Minhai, Martin Schibbye, Johan Persson, Peter Dahlin


Taipei-based Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson held a talk last week on the case of Gui Minhai. Gui is a Swedish citizen abducted from Thailand by the Chinese government who, beyond some limited contact with family and Swedish diplomats, has been held basically incommunicado. In fact, the talk itself coincided with the date when Gui had been officially held for exactly three years. 

The most informative part of Olsson's talk was his description of what Sweden is doing (or not doing) to get him back. While they are highly involved in closed-door, quiet talks with Chinese officials, it seems odd that these talks are indeed so "quiet": not only has the government not been in regular contact with Gui's daughter, but the case seems to be far more low-profile than it ought to.

This weird silence can be understood in comparison to the government's reaction to two other Swedish journalists who were similarly kidnapped and held for over a year in a foreign country on trumped-up charges. Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye spent over 400 days in an Ethiopian jail for essentially doing their jobs. Similarly, Gui had broken no laws in Hong Kong, where his books (which were semi-biographical tabloid fodder about Chinese leaders) were published, and was in Bangkok when he was taken. Like Persson and Schibbye, he is a Swedish citizen.

This is even more eyebrow-raising, as other European countries (most notably Germany, according to Olsson, but including much of the continent) have not only more publicly called for Gui's release, but have tried to work together to collectively take public action. And yet, Sweden stays on the path of "quiet diplomacy", even though it doesn't appear to be working. Bad publicity scares China. A few polite Swedish diplomats? Yeah I don't think so. 

But in Persson and Schibbye's case, there was an uproar in Sweden and the government much more transparently and openly feuded with Ethiopia over their detainment. What's more, Swedish officials were regularly in contact with Persson and Schibbye's family members.

Why are they raising much less of a fuss in dealing with China over Gui Minhai? Why are they not in regular contact with Angela Gui (his daughter)? When Gui was snatched a second time from a Chinese train under the noses of Swedish diplomats who were taking him to Beijing for medical care, why did the reaction seem so muted?

In the international media as well, while the case has been reported by major outlets such as the BBC and the Guardian, the average person (including the average Swedish person, I'd gather) doesn't even know that this is happening. To even your typical well-traveled educated European, the idea that China would abduct foreign nationals in foreign countries might even seem farfetched. But that's exactly what they've done.

The suggested answer is that China is a powerful country, both politically and economically. Ethiopia means little to Sweden; there are fewer risks with starting an openly critical campaign to get abducted citizens back.

I suggest an even more obvious answer. Here is a photo of Swedish citizens with Swedish names, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye:



Wikimedia Commons

And here is a photo of Swedish citizen with a Chinese name, Gui Minhai:
Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 12.27.48 PM
A screen grab of a screen grab - not many photos are available


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Do you think it could be...?

Yeah, I do.

The rest of Europe, as noted above, seems to understand the gravity of the situation. I have to wonder why the Swedish government doesn't.

Certainly, China wants the world to think that Gui is Chinese and this is a Chinese matter. Gui is not Chinese; he may have been born in Ningbo, but China doesn't recognize dual nationality. The day Gui became Swedish is the day he stopped being Chinese. Regardless, Chinese state thugs forced Gui to say publicly that he wanted to renounce Swedish citizenship and he "slammed the country" on television. (It is certain that this was a forced statement; there is no possibility that this is truly how Gui feels about the matter).

It is well-known that China thinks of basically every person of Chinese ancestral heritage as Chinese; their actual nationality doesn't seem to matter to the CCP. They do this by threatening Chinese students abroad, taking over Chinese-language media aimed at the diaspora and threatening loved ones who may still be in China, among other tactics.

It's also not a stretch to see that they think they can get away with holding Gui in part because he, well, looks Asian. They are betting on the rest of the world seeing this as a "Chinese" issue, not an international one, and that the world cares less about these things. Basically, China is deeply racist about such matters (thinking everyone with Chinese ancestry is Chinese and therefore subject to CCP control  no matter how many generations ago their family left is racist), but they're also betting that we are racist too: that we will care less because Gui is Asian.

Why do I say this? Well, compare China's treatment of Gui to their treatment of another Swede involved in China: Peter Dahlin. Gui published books - legally - that threatened the CCP's reputation. Dahlin is an activist who threatens the CCP by working with human rights lawyers in China.

Dahlin was released after a few weeks. Gui has been held for three years. Dahlin was taken in China, over actions he undertook in China; Gui was taken in Thailand over actions he undertook in Hong Kong.

I'll repeat myself: Peter Dahlin is white and has a European name. Gui Minhai looks Chinese and has a Chinese name.

China didn't want a disappeared European on their hands, so they let Dahlin go. They are betting on you not thinking Gui is European.

Don't believe me? They abducted another foreign citizen too: Lee Ming-che. Lee is Taiwanese, not Chinese. But his name is Lee Ming-che and he looks Asian. Lee was abducted in China, over actions that he took in Taiwan where he broke no laws.

Like Gui, the Chinese government wants you to think Lee is Chinese and that this is therefore a Chinese matter and none of your business. It is no such thing. They want you to fall back on old mental blocks - for you not to care as much about people with Asian faces.

Still don't believe me? Despite Swedish officials being fairly quiet about pressing for Gui's release, China has started a massive diplomatic row over a family of play-acting Chinese tourists and China's ambassador to Sweden is something of a grandstanding jerk: all of this (even according to Olsson) seems to be related to China's attempts to pressure Sweden to just forget Gui Minhai exists, and to shift the spotlight of the Sweden-China disagreement from a Swede abducted by China to a family of shrieking stooges.

Again: China wants you to forget about Gui Minhai, and Lee Ming-che too. They want you to see these foreign prisoners of the Chinese state as "Chinese", so you won't worry your pretty little head about them. The Swedish government, for some reason, seems to be playing along just enough to keep Gui out of the news. The result is that most people seem to be forgetting about him, if they knew he existed at all.

You, however, should do no such thing.