West cannot sacrifice its ideals for PRC’s face

By Paul Lin 林保華

Saturday, Feb 07, 2009, Page 8

During the Lunar New Year holidays, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) visited Europe, where he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the EU headquarters in Belgium as well as Germany, Spain and the UK.

China’s meticulous arrangement of the trip to the five countries surrounding France clearly showed its hostility toward France. It was an example of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) united front strategy to consolidate its strength and isolate its enemies as much as it possibly can.

The Chinese government is hostile toward France simply because French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama last December, immediately turning France into a PRC enemy. Interestingly, former US president George W. Bush met the exiled Tibetan leader several times, but the Chinese government did not assume an antagonistic attitude toward the US. This is a clear manifestation of the fundamental Chinese attitude of bullying the weak and fearing the strong.

In September 2007, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama for private talks. This upset the Chinese leadership, which then terminated dialogue with Berlin. Merkel refused to give in and suspended negotiations on a financial rescue package with China. Beijing soon curried favor with France and signed a 10 billion euro (US$12.8 billion) agreement with Sarkozy when he visited China that November. Now that Sarkozy has met with the Dalai Lama, however, that agreement seems to be going up in smoke.

Beijing has signed a number of economic agreements with Germany. These include Germany providing some of its magnetic levitation technology to China and China’s Sanyi Heavy Industry Co investing 100 million euros in Germany — the largest Chinese investment in Europe — although Berlin has continued to bring up human rights issues with China. It is thus clear that as long as Western countries insist on their principles, Beijing’s threats are ultimately ineffective.

Of course, this time Wen unexpectedly pressured the French government by saying a labor strike in France was the result of the French government’s inability to deal with the financial crisis.

But Wen hit a brick wall in the UK. Not only was he forced to leave the Chinese embassy in London through the back door because of pro-Tibet demonstrations, but a protester even hurled a shoe at him as he delivered a speech at Cambridge University.

Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq last December was marred by a similar incident when a journalist threw two shoes at him during a press conference, but he managed to dodge the attack.

Bush joked: “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw.”

In contrast, Wen reacted with anger, saying that “this kind of despicable trick cannot stop the friendship between the Chinese and the British people.”

It is precisely this kind of behavior that highlights the vast difference between dictatorship and democracy. Still, some Taiwanese media outlets actually praised Wen for his composure.

The protester yelled “dictator,” loudly asking the crowd, “How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen to the lies he’s telling without saying anything? How can you listen to him unchallenged?”

It is indeed shameful that some prestigious Western universities have allowed representatives of a communist dictatorship — including a premier who has tried to avoid blame for the melamine scandal — to preach on campus, and for some Western countries to submit to temptation and pressure from the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of their own ideals.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

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