US senators took a military aircraft to Taiwan. To Beijing, that is a major provocation
Taiwan is finally getting much-needed help from the United States to fight its spiraling coronavirus outbreak. But to Beijing, the offer is a major provocation that risks escalating both cross-strait and US-China relations.
“It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and we value this partnership,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth said during the three-hour visit.
When delivering his welcoming remarks to the US visitors on Sunday, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu again criticized Beijing. “While we are doing our best to import vaccines, we must overcome obstacles to ensure that these lifesaving medicines are delivered free of trouble from Beijing. Taiwan is no stranger to this kind of obstruction,” he said.
But the biggest poke in the eye to Beijing is perhaps not Wu’s comments or the vaccine donation deal itself, but the US military aircraft 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 of a US military transport plane capable of transporting troops and cargo — including artillery, battle tanks and helicopters — in Taiwan is likely to spark a blistering response from Beijing.
Previously, Chinese state media has threatened against the presence of US military aircraft in Taiwan with war. Last August, amid reports a US Navy spy plane might have taken off from Taiwan, the Global Times said Taipei and Washington were “playing with fire.”
“If the mainland has conclusive evidence, it can destroy the relevant airport in the island and the US military aircraft that land there — a war in the Taiwan Straits will thus begin.”
In its Sunday editorial, however, the Global Times seems to have toned down its war talk, calling instead for prudence in Beijing’s response.
“We have the actual freedom to take actions that we believe are necessary. What we need to consider is that the effects must be positive and political benefits must outweigh the costs by far,” it said.
Photo of the Day
The big moment: Students in the Chinese city of Huzhou cheer before taking the national college entrance exam on Monday. Attended by millions of high school students each year, the two-day exam is considered the most important — and most stressful — test a Chinese student will take in their academic lifetime.
The Business of China: Microsoft removed ‘Tank Man’ images on Tiananmen Square’s anniversary
Microsoft says “human error” led its search engine to block images and videos of “Tank Man.”
The photos were taken down globally from Bing on Friday — the 32nd anniversary of China’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. “Tank Man” 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 taken offline by mistake. The images reappeared around the world — outside of China — on Saturday.
Bing, unlike its major competitors including Google, operates within mainland China. That means Microsoft is forced to censor search results for Chinese users, according to Chinese law — particularly images and information about the Tiananmen Square protests and the killings that ensued. China’s internet censorship typically ramps up in the weeks leading to the event’s anniversary.
Hundreds of people were killed on June 4, 1989, in central Beijing. The massacre made headlines around the world — as did images such as those of “Tank Man.”
Although China’s censorship typically pertains only within its borders, Microsoft’s accidental global takedown isn’t the first time Tiananmen Square information has been blocked outside mainland China by a foreign company.
The FBI in December accused a former Zoom employee of participating in a scheme to censor meetings on behalf of the Chinese government. Xinjiang “Julien” Jin and co-conspirators allegedly terminated at least four video meetings commemorating 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 had participated in and survived the 1989 protests, the FBI said.
— By David Goldman
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