So how are things going in China and Taiwan these days? Swimmingly, if you only get your news from social media. To look at the blogs and microblogging sites where people discuss political or military news, everything is coming up roses. Of course, that’s because the Chinese Communist Party has further cracked down on any and all forms of online dissent. Under the recently announced rules, nobody is being allowed to comment on any of these matters unless they have a government-approved credential to do so. I doubt you’ll need to strain your imagination very much to figure out who will be getting those credentials and what sorts of opinions they will be sharing. (Associated Press)
Ma Xiaolin frequently wrote about current affairs on one of China’s leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers. But recently, he said in a post, the Weibo site called and asked him not to post original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military issues.
“As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it looks like I can only go the route of entertainment, food and beverage now,” the international relations professor wrote on Jan. 31.
Ma, who often posted on developments in the Mideast, is one of many popular influencers working within the constraints of China’s heavily censored web who is finding that their space to speak is shrinking even further with the latest policy changes and a clean-up campaign run by the country’s powerful censors. He declined an interview request.
From the sound of it, all the CCP is really doing now is taking their long-standing unofficial policy and making it official. It’s not as if Xi Jinping’s government was ever a bastion of free speech. Posting unpopular opinions has frequently led to people being censored, locked up or simply disappearing. But this new system is particularly draconian.
There was always a prohibition against criticizing the government in public forums, but as the AP report notes, it wasn’t always heavily enforced. The default attitude coming out of Beijing was that everyone could go online and chat until someone noticed you saying “unapproved” things. Then you would be shut down.
Now the situation is different. If you want to talk about anything relating to the Chinese government, the military, or any related current events, you need to apply for a special credential first. A failure to do so will carry heavy consequences. This online muzzling is only possible because of the authoritarian control the government holds over its citizens.
Here’s another thing you won’t be allowed to blog about in China or Taiwan. The Taiwanese government was in the final stages of closing a deal with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech SE to purchase five million doses of their COVID vaccine. Then, at the last minute, the deal was “put on hold.” It quickly became obvious that China didn’t want that deal to go through, so it stopped. (Reuters)
A deal for Taiwan to buy 5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech SE is on hold, the island’s health minister said on Wednesday, citing potential Chinese pressure for the delay.
Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said officials were on the verge of announcing the deal in December when BioNTech pulled the plug.
While he did not directly say China was to blame, Chen implied there was a political dimension to the decision and that he had been worried about “outside forces intervening”, hence his caution in discussing the planned deal publicly.
Even the Taiwanese Health Minister knows better than to directly blame China for canceling the deal. That would be a good way to ensure that you don’t keep your position for much longer.
As you can see, this isn’t just a crackdown on free speech. The CCP is cracking down on every aspect of life. By denying vaccinations to the people of Taiwan, they are keeping them in fear not only of government oppression but of the virus as well. People locked down in their homes while Big Brother monitors their online activity tend to cause less trouble, I suppose.