China Reform Monitor - No. 1341

Google's modus vivendi with the PRC;
All eyes on El Salvador


September 11, 2018


August 1:

In six to nine months, Google plans to launch a censored search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and protest,
the Intercept reports. Google will operate the search app, code-named "Dragonfly," as part of a "joint venture" with an unnamed Chinese partner company. The project began last spring and accelerated following a meeting between Google's CEO and Chinese officials. The censored search app, which was developed in California, will identify and filter all websites blocked by China's Great Firewall. When someone in China searches using the app, banned websites will be removed from the results and a disclaimer will appear: "Some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements." The search app will also "blacklist sensitive queries," so that if someone enters certain words or phrases no results will appear.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The planned move represents a shift in Google's China policy, and will mark the first time in a decade that the search engine has operated in the country. During a 2006 congressional hearing on American technology companies in China, members called Google a "functionary of the Chinese government" and accused it of "abhorrent actions" for participating in censorship. "Google has seriously compromised its ‘don't be evil' policy. Indeed, it has become evil's accomplice," said Rep. Chris Smith. In 2010, Google pulled out of China claiming that it "could no longer continue censoring our results" because of limits on free speech, blocking websites, and hacking the company's computer systems.]

August 2:

Student groups from 11 universities across China have circulated online petitions in support of 30 workers arrested for attempting to form a trade union. More than 1,600 student signatories have called for the release of the workers, who sought to form a union at Jasic Technology in Shenzhen. "Our ancestors' baton is firmly in our hands," reads a petition from Peking University students, "Long live the working class!" The arrests and censorship of the petitions highlights how sensitive workers' rights are in China today,
the Financial Times reports. A Tsinghua University student who joined the protests said: "Students' attention towards workers' struggles is increasing...but we face pressure from our universities, who want to control student societies, and who will put pressure on us via our parents." The workers' demand is unusual, because it is for political rights – the right to form a union – as opposed to a pay dispute, which are common.

August 14:

Ahead of her nine-day state visit to Taipei's diplomatic allies Paraguay and Belize, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen made a two-day stopover in the United States,
The Diplomat reports. It was her first U.S. stopover since the Taiwan Travel Act, a law encouraging Taiwan's high-level officials to visit the U.S. and vice versa. Before leaving Taipei for Los Angeles on August 12th, Tsai said: "In going abroad, the whole world can see Taiwan; they can see our country as well as our support for democracy and freedom. We only need to be firm so that no one can obliterate Taiwan's existence. Protecting Taiwan is to protect freedom and democratic values." Tsai has opened her whole foreign trip to the press. In Los Angeles, she addressed a dinner for Taiwanese-Americans and visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where she declared that anything can be negotiated except "our freedom and our future."

August 21:

El Salvador has severed diplomatic relations with Taipei and established ties with Beijing, leaving only 17 nations that officially recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan),
the New York Times reports. In a nationally televised speech, El Salvador's president said "extraordinary opportunities" would come with recognizing Beijing. China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, concurred: "I'm confident the people of El Salvador will feel the warmth and friendship of the Chinese people and derive tangible benefits from cooperation with China." El Salvador had asked Taiwan to support a port project, but when Taipei declined, claiming the plan was not economically viable, the country turned to Beijing. Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu denounced Beijing's use of project financing to gain allies: "It is irresponsible to engage in financial aid diplomacy or compete with China in cash." Taiwan's foreign ministry said: "China's rude and unreasonable actions...will have a seriously negative influence on cross-strait relations."

August 24:

The White House has accused China of "interference" in El Salvador's domestic affairs and accused the Central American country of making the switch in recognition (detailed above) without transparency months before an election. "The El Salvadoran government's receptiveness to China's apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States, and will result in a re-evaluation of our relationship with El Salvador," an official Administration has said,
according to the New York Times. The comments are America's strongest pushback to date on China's efforts to end the international recognition of Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy claimed by the PRC. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would join with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado to end American aid to El Salvador if it established formal ties with Beijing, and Gardner told Reuters
that he would introduce legislation to enable the use of aid and other levers to encourage countries to maintain Taiwan ties.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Nine Latin American and the Caribbean countries maintain diplomatic ties with Taipei. Panama broke ties with Taipei in 2017, and in May the Dominican Republic did the same. Panama is now seeking financing from Beijing and, last month, the two sides began free trade talks, designed to make Panama a hub for Chinese exports to Central America.]

Related Categories: Latin America; China; Humanitarian Issues; China and East Asia Program

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