Taiwan is finally getting much-needed help from the US to tackle its rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak. For Beijing, however, the offer is a major provocation that could escalate both cross-strait relations and US-China relations.
“It was critical for the United States to include Taiwan in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and value this partnership,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth during the three-hour visit.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu once again criticized Beijing in his welcoming speech to the US visitors on Sunday. “As we do our best to import vaccines, we have to overcome obstacles to ensure that these life-saving drugs can be easily shipped from Beijing. Taiwan is no stranger to this type of handicap, ”he said.
But the biggest stab in Beijing’s eye may not be Wu’s comments or the vaccine donation deal itself, but the US military planes parked on the runway.
The American delegation arrived at Taiwan’s Songshan Airport on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter – a primary strategic lift aircraft for the US military.
The presence in Taiwan of a U.S. military transport aircraft capable of carrying troops and cargo – including artillery, battle tanks and helicopters – is likely to spark a violent reaction from Beijing.
Chinese state media had previously threatened the presence of US military aircraft in Taiwan with war. Last August, the Global Times said amid reports that a US Navy spy plane may have taken off from Taiwan and that Taipei and Washington are “playing with fire.”
“If the mainland has conclusive evidence, it can destroy the relevant airport on the island and the US military planes landing there – and a cross-strait war begins.”
However, in its Sunday editorial, the Global Times appears to have toned down its war talk and instead calls for Beijing’s response to be prudent.
“We have the real leeway to take measures that we consider necessary. We have to take into account that the effects must be positive and the political benefits must far outweigh the costs, ”it said.
picture of the Day
The big moment: Students in the Chinese city of Huzhou cheer before taking the national university entrance exam on Monday. The two-day exam is taken by millions of high school students each year and is considered to be the most important – and stressful – exam a Chinese student will take in their academic life.
The Business of China: Microsoft removed “Tank Man” images for the anniversary of Tiananmen Square
According to Microsoft, “human error” caused its search engine to block images and videos of “Tank Man”.
The photos were taken worldwide by Bing on Friday – the 32nd anniversary of China’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations on and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. “Panzermann” refers to an unidentified protester who defied a column of tanks advancing on the square. Images of the encounter have become iconic.
A Microsoft spokesman said they were accidentally taken offline. The pictures reappeared worldwide on Saturday – outside of China.
Bing operates in mainland China, unlike its main competitors including Google. This means that under Chinese law, Microsoft is forced to censor search results for Chinese users – especially images and information about the Tiananmen protests and the killings that followed. China’s internet censorship typically increases in the weeks leading up to the event’s anniversary.
Hundreds of people were killed in central Beijing on June 4, 1989. The massacre made headlines around the world – as did pictures like that of “Tank Man”.
While China’s censorship is typically only within its borders, Microsoft’s accidental global shutdown isn’t the first time Tiananmen Square information has been blocked by a foreign company outside mainland China.
The FBI accused a former Zoom employee in December of participating in a program to censor meetings on behalf of the Chinese government. Xinjiang “Julien” Jin and co-conspirators are said to have canceled at least four videoconferences to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre last June. Most of the meetings were organized and attended by US participants, some of whom were dissidents who participated in and survived the 1989 protests, the FBI said.
– By David Goldman
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