Following his attendance in Moscow at the commemoration of the 70th VE Day anniversary, Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping paid a three-day state visit to Belarus. Tokyo-based online magazine The Diplomat published a summary of Xi’s visit on May 12, quoting Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko – as, in turn, quoted by Xinhua newsagency -, as saying that
I adopted China’s step-by-step economic reform style in Bearus and believe that the most important prerequisite for economic development and economic reforms is social stability.
The Diplomat article also quoted Xi Jinping, again via Xinhua, as saying that the “Chinese president” wanted to turn a joint Belarus-Sino industrial park into a pearl on the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The article points out that public attitudes in Eastern Europe were generally more open toward China than in Western Europe, and describes how Beijing tunes its policies and institutions on these two regions, depening on the degrees of openness.
Both Lukashenko and Xi noted that Belarus, thanks to its geographical placement as the gateway between Eurasia and Europe, has a major role to play in bringing the Silk Road Economic Belt to Europe, according to The Diplomat.
As on May 8 in a ceremony in Moscow, Xi also presented medals to World War 2 veterans in Belarus. In both ceremonies, the veterans had reportedly fought in the Japanese War.
Belarussian English-language media – there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them – appear to remain silent on a joint statement published by the two heads of state, which includes a regular Belarussian political tribute: belittling Taiwan to please China, as Taiwan News put it on Tuesday.
According to the Chinese version of the joint statement,
Belarus reiterated that it it adhered to the one-China policy, acknowledged that the People’s Republic of China represents the entirety of China as its only legal government, that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory, that [Belarus] opposes any kind of “Taiwan independence”, promises not to establish official relations with Taiwan or to officially interact with Taiwan, that it opposes the accession of Taiwan to any international or regional organizations [where participation is limited to] sovereign states, that it will not sell arms to Taiwan, that it will support peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait and all the Chinese government’s efforts to achieve national reunification.
According to the Taipei Times on May 13, Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said the ministry “deeply regrets” that Minsk reiterated the position it had long held for the sake of “ingratiating itself with mainland China”.
Radio Taiwan International (RTI) also reports the reaction from Taiwan’s foreign ministry:
Concerning the content of mainland China’s and Belarussia’s joint joint communiqué, the Republic of China’s [Taiwan] foreign ministry said yesterday evening (May 12) that when mainland Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao visited Belarus in 2007, and when the Belarussian president visited mainland China in 2013, all joint communiqués signed by the two sides mentioned “opposition against Taiwan joining any international and regional organizations [with participation limited to] sovereign states”. This time’s repetition of the old tune shows Belarus’ [is prepared to] curry favor with mainland China by issuing this statement which is ignorant of international realities and which inappropriately affects our country’s legal interests, on which the foreign ministry expressed regret.
The foreign ministry reiterated that the Republic of China [Taiwan] is a free, democratic sovereign state with the right to apply, in accordance with the people’s wishes, for membership in international organizations in accordance with its legal interests. This decision and approach is unaffected by any individual country’s talk.
The foreign ministry said that after the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the Republic of Taiwan [Taiwan] had established a representative office in Belarus, but because of the low volume of business, decided to close it down in 2005. Business was taken care of by the representative office in Russia. Had there ever been arms trade between Taiwan and Belarus? Chiang Su-yih, former representative to Belarus, said that this was “absurd. That has never happened.”
In an editorial on May 14, the Taipei Times cited the Belorussian-Chinese joint statement as an example of how President Ma Ying-jeou‘s concept of a “1992 consensus” had failed:
In view of Beijing’s continued denigration of Taiwan’s status, it is obvious that such a cross-strait consensus does not exist.
The Taipei Times’ Chinese-language sister paper, the Liberty Times, questions that a meeting between Eric Chu, chairman of president Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT, and Xi Jinping, in China earlier this month, was showing any positive effects, and quotes KMT legislator Johnny Chiang‘s (江啟臣) interpretation of the joint statement:
[Chiang said] Xi Jinping wanted to turn the cross-Strait- bottomline into an international bottomline, as a foretaste for Taiwan’s general elections next year, as a “warning” for Taiwan. The [oppositional] Democratic Progressive Party’s China Department director and [the party’s] legislator Chao Tien-lin believes that dignified and meaningful participation in international organizations was the common position of the Taiwanese people and should not be affected by unreasonable suppression and restrictions. Beijing should respect the Taiwanese peoples’ will and expectations, and “should not deepen Taiwanese society’s negative impression of Beijing”.
對於上述聲明，國民黨立委江啟臣認為，習近平把兩岸關係的底線，放在 國際上變成底線，有針對台灣明年大選情勢的味道，這是對台灣的「示警」。兼任民進黨中國事務部主任的立委趙天麟則認為，有尊嚴、有意義參與國際組織，這是 台灣人民的共同主張，不應遭受不合理的打壓與限制，北京應尊重台灣人民的意志與期望，「不要讓台灣社會加深對北京的負面觀感」。
Now, if you wonder how Beijing likes Taiwanese coverage of Chinese policies, Xinhua provides the answer. They aren’t happy at all.
Whenever that happens, and when criticism right from the CCP’s mouthpieces themselves would appear unbelievable even to a, by now, pretty conditioned Chinese public, one should look out abroad for a voice sympathetic to ones’ own position. Xinhua has found that Taiwan’s Want Daily (旺报) – apparently, according to Xinhua’s excerpts, anyway – commiserates with China, an innocent victim of Taiwanese media aggression.
An editorial published [by Want Daily] on May 14 points out that Taiwanese media, when reporting or commenting on mainland or cross-strait news, are often full of bias and errors, having misguided Taiwanese peoples’ knowledge of mainland China and of mainland Chinese policies towards Taiwan. When influential Taiwanese media always report mainland Chinese and cross-strait news based on wrong understanding and with a partial attitude, how can the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ever open exchanges further up, and deepen goodwill and understanding, and how can the two sides of the Strait move from confrontation to reconciliation and blend with each other?
Coverage on the joint statement with Belarus is among the list of media sins:
[…] The third is about the joint statement issued by the mainland and Belarus on May 10. A television station’s horse race was that “Belarus opposes Taiwanese participation in sovereign states’ organizations”.
But even in the eyes of somewhat critical Chinese readers, the way the Taiwanese paper – allegedly – defends the joint statement might come across as pointless:
As for Belarus’ and Beijing’s joint statement’s wording, it was used as early as in the two sides’ 2007 and 2013 communiqùés, and to keep playing the same tune is without much significance. The expanded interpretations by the media is only needed for internal political struggles.
» Quoting Ma Ying-jeou, May 20, 2011