“The difficulties Taiwan compatriots are facing [in the wake of Typhoon Morakot] mean the same to us,” Chinese President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) told a delegation of ethnic minorities from Taiwan led by Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) yesterday. “We will continue helping them in rescue and relief as well as support them in rehabilitation.”
“We share the same feeling with Taiwan compatriots, especially the ethnic minorities, who suffered serious life and property loss in the recent disaster. We are very much concerned” (胡锦涛说，不久前，台湾遭受了历史罕见的台风灾害，台湾同胞的生命财产蒙受了重大损失，特别是一些台湾少数民族同胞受灾严重。我们对此感同身受，十分关切，十分牵挂。在这里，我谨代表大陆同胞，向遭受台风袭击的台湾父老乡亲致以深切慰问，对不幸遇难的台湾同胞深表哀悼。) the state-controlled People’s Daily newspaper quoted the leader as saying.
According to the paper, China has donated about 176 million yuan (US$26 million) and 25 million yuan in disaster relief material to Taiwan, including 10,000 sleeping bags, 10,000 blankets and 1,000 sterilization appliances.
All of this would be heartwarming were it not for the fact that Beijing is exploiting a natural catastrophe for propagandistic purposes (and so is Taiwan’s representative office in Denmark, which issued a press release celebrating China’s humanitarian assistance without making a single mention of any of the other donors, including the US).
The hypocrisy, of course, lies in the fact that the same Chinese leadership that “share[s] the same feeling with Taiwan compatriots” has for years threatened to attack Taiwan should the latter move toward formal independence — or even drag unification talks for too long. It is the same leadership that passed the “Anti-Secession” law making it “legal” to use force in such an eventuality. It is the same leadership that, back in 2003, prevented the WHO from immediately sending health experts to Taiwan during the SARS crisis. It is also the same leadership that 10 years ago after the catastrophic 921 Earthquake in central Taiwan, was forcing international emergency teams to pass through China first before going to Taiwan, thus causing unnecessary — and costly — delays. It is the same leadership that has long prevented Taiwan from joining multilateral bodies, which has ostracized Taiwan and mitigated its efforts to contribute to, and learn from, shared global expertise on a number of issues (surely, if Taiwan were allowed by Beijing to exist as a normal country, its Red Cross would be part of the International Committee of the Red Cross rather than an independent entity).
The human cost of Morakot, though severe, pales in comparison to what would happen if China launched an invasion, or even just a missile attack, against Taiwan. Even as preparations were being made last year to launch a new round of meetings between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the latter entity’s chairman, Zhang Mingqing (張銘清), was saying that there would be no war in the Taiwan Strait as long as Taiwanese gave up their aspirations for independence, a veiled threat if ever there was one.
(China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi (王毅) reportedly gave Chin a 20 million yuan (US$2.9 million) check for “relief aid,” which has drawn accusations from both main political parties in Taiwan, as well as Aborigines, because foreign aid is by law supposed to be channeled through the Ministry of the Interior, the Straits Exchange Foundation or the Red Cross. While there is no law that forbids individuals from receiving donations, it will be impossible to make sure that the money is properly used. Chin has also come under fire for apparently playing into Beijing’s propaganda game. Note, too, that this is the same Chin who left for Japan in the midst of Typhoon Morakot to lead a protest at Yasukuni shrine. Within one week, she’s managed both to portray Japan as the “enemy” and China as a “friend”... and got paid for it.)
We should not politicize humanitarian help, and all of it is technically welcome. But when a state threatening military aggression uses this for a propaganda campaign, and when its leader — and head of the CMC, China’s top military decision-making body — makes a mockery of human compassion by claiming to “share” the pain of Taiwanese in this hour of need, we cannot help but smell politics. And it stinks.