China Power | Diplomacy | East Asia

Can Taiwan Benefit From China’s Ouster of US Journalists?

China has turned its back on American journalists. That’s an opportunity for Taiwan to shine.

Chauncey Jung
Can Taiwan Benefit From China’s Ouster of US Journalists?
Credit: Office of the President, ROC (Taiwan)

Following its long-term practices of oppressing press freedom and free speech, in recent weeks China has moved rapidly to further crack down on foreign reporting within its borders. Earlier in March, the Chinese regime issued two administrative orders to ban reporters from several American media outlets from reporting stories in the country.

The move came as a retaliatory measure against the Trump administration’s decision to list five Chinese state media outlets as foreign missions. But the two countries had traded blame and hostility on media issues for longer than that. In February, three Wall Street Journal reporters in China were evicted from the country as China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused an op-ed from the outlet of “being racist.”

Under the most recent order, American reporters from the affected media outlets will be banned from working not only in mainland China, but also in the country’s two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau.

In contrast to the aggressive measures taken against reporters by the Chinese authorities, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed a welcoming attitude toward reporters who are affected by the U.S.-China conflicts. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Joseph Wu offered a welcoming message in a tweet on March 27:“As [The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post] face intensifying hostility in China, I’d like to welcome you to be stationed in Taiwan — a country that is a beacon of freedom & democracy. Yes! You’ll find people here greeting you with open arms & lots of genuine smiles.”

The differences between Taiwan and China are clear. While Taiwan continues its progress on social justice, government accountability, and press freedoms, China is moving toward even more limitations and constraints on civil liberty and freedom of speech, and continues to show little respect for the basic rule of law. Yet Taiwan has been excluded from the international community for the past 50 years. From being forced from the United Nations in 1971 to facing obstructions to cooperation with the World Health Organization, Taiwan has been the primary victim of China’s aggression for approximately half a century. Despite having similar ideological beliefs and political systems with countries in the free world, Taiwan has yet to obtain the recognition it deserves on the international stage.

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Utilizing the “one China” policy, Beijing has been aggressively suppressing Taiwan’s presence in the international community. The communist regime aims to limit the number of diplomatic relationships that Taiwan maintains – and those efforts go beyond political organizations. Athletes from Taiwan are forced to participate in international competitions under the name “Chinese Taipei.” Taiwan is not able to join Interpol despite multiple requests in recent years. By silencing Taiwan’s presence in international organizations, China aims to achieve the regime’s major political agenda of “unifying” the country, by claiming Taiwan as a province.

The exclusions that Taiwan faces make it difficult for the democratic island nation to practice diplomacy. The status quo also made it difficult for Taiwan to gain attention from the international community for its battle against economic and political influences from China. China’s massive population, land size, economic leverage, and constant military threats have all forced Taiwan into a position of limited interactions with the rest of the world. Other nations become hesitant in interacting with Taiwan to avoid retaliation from the Chinese regime.

While Taiwan’s press freedom has continued to improve since its democratization in the early 1990s, international media outlets have yet to shift their focus from China to the rising democracy. Yet the Communist regime’s latest moves against foreign press and reporters have offered Taiwan an opportunity to improve its presence in the world.

By inviting reporters and international media outlets with open arms, Taiwan is on the right track to gain more coverage by reputable journalists to more readers around the world. Hosting foreign journalists is an opportunity for Taiwan to express its struggles, its experiences, and its messages to the international community. While Taiwanese government officials have limited resources to utilize on the international stage, the presence of international media will be a chance to communicate with the rest of the world. Media coverage and voices can eventually become powerful forces to combat against China’s aggression in critical times.

Chauncey Jung is a China internet specialist who previously worked for various Chinese internet companies in Beijing.