Damages to China’s Image

From the beginning of this century until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China made impressive economic achievements and its leadership spent massive resources building the country’s image. At the same time, the Bush administration was preoccupied with combatting terrorism and the Middle East, which offered China an opportunity to expand its horizons, especially in the Asia Pacific region. The Obama administration tried to redress the balance, but progress was limited.President Donald Trump was concerned about the China threat. He exerted economic pressures on China and confronted China in competition for international support in the ideological arena. Mainstream media and public opinion in the United States began to reassess the Chinese Communist regime. Beijing’s suppression of Hong Kong and its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet elicited a lot of protests from the international community. In the past decade or so, the Chinese authorities have attempted to get global mass media to spread the official Chinese views. Their financial resources may recruit talent, but the absence of editorial autonomy fails to remove the impression of propaganda, and the results are far inferior to those of Singapore and Qatar. It is difficult to deceive all the people all the time. Recently, China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its means of combatting the pandemic in Shanghai have been costly in terms of damaging China’s image. Since the mid-1950s, the Chinese Communist regime has been telling the world that it upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and that this is the core of China’s independent foreign policy line of peace. China obviously walks a tightrope on the war in Ukraine. It refuses to condemn Russia and impose sanctions against it; and it declares that sanctions are useless. On the other hand, it says that it upholds the United Nations Charter, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. The world overwhelmingly supports the heroic Ukrainians in resisting Russia’s invasion, China’s stance is not only unconvincing but hypocritical. The votes in the United Nations expose China’s isolation. Various medium and small states may differ in systems and positions, but they certainly oppose the invasion of a small country (Ukraine) by a major power (Russia), especially when it occupies the victim’s territory and commits war crimes. Chinese leaders often try to occupy the moral high ground, but on the Ukrainian war, it accords priority to the strategic interests of a major power and has failed the Third World’s trust. The war in Ukraine is a foreign policy issue. The handling of the pandemic in Shanghai is a domestic affair. The Chinese Communist regime is generally perceived to enjoy effective governance and high mobilization power. Chinese leaders are proud of this as reflected in their publicity on the containment of the pandemic. But the Chinese authorities forbid people from discussing the policy options concerned and relevant foreign experiences. The “zero case” approach is an unshakable state policy and solely relates to the prestige of the leadership. The lockdown in Shanghai has apparently been quite efficient. But the capacity of the cadre corps has limits. Some residents do not have adequate food supplies; sick people cannot secure medication or timely medical treatment, and the community’s mental health has been ignored. Foreign media describe the situation as a “humanitarian tragedy,” and the people’s anger and frustration were widely reported. The conclusion is obvious: the leadership’s prestige is more important than rational policy deliberations and people’s basic rights. Taiwan nationals in Shanghai are now circulating their personal experiences in the city in the Taiwanese community, so people will better understand Chinese Communist governance. The European Community Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Chinese government asking to improve the business environment. The Japanese consulate-general in Shanghai complained to the municipal authorities regarding the operational problems of the over 10,000 Japanese enterprises there; and the South Korean counterpart asked the Fudan University to let the South Korean students return home. Many governments revealed complacency, neglect, and policy errors in combatting the pandemic. But the Shanghai situation is different. Its “humanitarian tragedy” reflects the nature of the Chinese Communist regime. It is no accident that foreign media compared China’s “zero approach” to the campaign to terminate all sparrows in the Great Leap Forward. They are policies of authoritarian leaders who rejected rational deliberations and ignored people’s livelihoods. The war in Ukraine and the Shanghai lockdown act like mirrors showing how the Chinese Communist regime works. Their impact on its image will be significant. Views expressed in this article are

Damages to China’s Image

From the beginning of this century until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China made impressive economic achievements and its leadership spent massive resources building the country’s image. At the same time, the Bush administration was preoccupied with combatting terrorism and the Middle East, which offered China an opportunity to expand its horizons, especially in the Asia Pacific region. The Obama administration tried to redress the balance, but progress was limited.

President Donald Trump was concerned about the China threat. He exerted economic pressures on China and confronted China in competition for international support in the ideological arena. Mainstream media and public opinion in the United States began to reassess the Chinese Communist regime. Beijing’s suppression of Hong Kong and its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet elicited a lot of protests from the international community.

In the past decade or so, the Chinese authorities have attempted to get global mass media to spread the official Chinese views. Their financial resources may recruit talent, but the absence of editorial autonomy fails to remove the impression of propaganda, and the results are far inferior to those of Singapore and Qatar. It is difficult to deceive all the people all the time.

Recently, China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its means of combatting the pandemic in Shanghai have been costly in terms of damaging China’s image. Since the mid-1950s, the Chinese Communist regime has been telling the world that it upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and that this is the core of China’s independent foreign policy line of peace.

China obviously walks a tightrope on the war in Ukraine. It refuses to condemn Russia and impose sanctions against it; and it declares that sanctions are useless. On the other hand, it says that it upholds the United Nations Charter, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. The world overwhelmingly supports the heroic Ukrainians in resisting Russia’s invasion, China’s stance is not only unconvincing but hypocritical. The votes in the United Nations expose China’s isolation.

Various medium and small states may differ in systems and positions, but they certainly oppose the invasion of a small country (Ukraine) by a major power (Russia), especially when it occupies the victim’s territory and commits war crimes. Chinese leaders often try to occupy the moral high ground, but on the Ukrainian war, it accords priority to the strategic interests of a major power and has failed the Third World’s trust.

The war in Ukraine is a foreign policy issue. The handling of the pandemic in Shanghai is a domestic affair. The Chinese Communist regime is generally perceived to enjoy effective governance and high mobilization power. Chinese leaders are proud of this as reflected in their publicity on the containment of the pandemic. But the Chinese authorities forbid people from discussing the policy options concerned and relevant foreign experiences. The “zero case” approach is an unshakable state policy and solely relates to the prestige of the leadership.

The lockdown in Shanghai has apparently been quite efficient. But the capacity of the cadre corps has limits. Some residents do not have adequate food supplies; sick people cannot secure medication or timely medical treatment, and the community’s mental health has been ignored. Foreign media describe the situation as a “humanitarian tragedy,” and the people’s anger and frustration were widely reported. The conclusion is obvious: the leadership’s prestige is more important than rational policy deliberations and people’s basic rights.

Taiwan nationals in Shanghai are now circulating their personal experiences in the city in the Taiwanese community, so people will better understand Chinese Communist governance. The European Community Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Chinese government asking to improve the business environment. The Japanese consulate-general in Shanghai complained to the municipal authorities regarding the operational problems of the over 10,000 Japanese enterprises there; and the South Korean counterpart asked the Fudan University to let the South Korean students return home.

Many governments revealed complacency, neglect, and policy errors in combatting the pandemic. But the Shanghai situation is different. Its “humanitarian tragedy” reflects the nature of the Chinese Communist regime. It is no accident that foreign media compared China’s “zero approach” to the campaign to terminate all sparrows in the Great Leap Forward. They are policies of authoritarian leaders who rejected rational deliberations and ignored people’s livelihoods.

The war in Ukraine and the Shanghai lockdown act like mirrors showing how the Chinese Communist regime works. Their impact on its image will be significant.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Joseph Yu-shek Cheng is a retired professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong. He publishes widely on the political developments in China and Hong Kong, Chinese foreign policy, and development in southern China. He has been an activist serving the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong for four decades. In his retirement, he continues to work as a current affairs commentator and columnist. Email: [email protected]