Shocking and peremptory statement from Chinese officials in Bangkok appears to order the Thai media into line over Taiwan. The trigger was a respectful interview on the Thai PBS channel with the Taiwanese Foreign Minister. 

The Chinese Embassy in Bangkok has warned Thai media outlets about coverage of Taiwan, saying it could damage the friendship between the people of China and Thailand. In an angry tone, the diplomatic mission strongly criticised as ‘nonsense’ and ‘fallacies’ the pronouncements of the Taiwanese Foreign Minister in an interview given in Taipei on November 1st to the respected TV station Thai PBS, which was broadcast on November 3rd. The Embassy statement described the interview as an abuse of press freedom that harmed the relationship between Thailand and China.

On Saturday, a stunning statement from the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok called on Thailand’s media to exercise restraint and self-censor news reports and coverage of growing tensions between the self-ruled island state and the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. The statement came in response to an interview with the Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Joseph Wu Jaushieh, broadcast on Thai PBS on Friday, November 3rd.

On Saturday, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok issued an extraordinary statement criticising a Thai media outlet for carrying an interview with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Mr Joseph Wu Jaushieh.

Earlier, Thai PBS news anchor and Assistant News Editor Phongsathat Sukhaphongrn interviewed the senior government official on November 1st in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. This self-governing island state also styles itself as the Republic of China since 1949.

Foreign Minister reiterated regular talking points about the growing tensions between China and Taiwan over the island state’s desire for democracy

In the interview, the Foreign Minister repeated his warnings of the dangers facing the de facto independent state as the rhetoric from Communist China under President Xi Jinping grows angrier and louder, seeking the reunification or reintegration of what it sees as a renegade province with the mainland.

The comments were no different from regular interviews given by Mr Wu to Western media throughout his five-year tenure, where he has repeatedly warned of the potential for world destabilisation and a looming conflict, except this was for a Thai audience.

It appears the feature was broadcast on Thai PBS TV on November 3rd, but the YouTube channel video of the Thai PBS broadcast has since been taken down and marked private. 

In its statement on Saturday, the Chinese Embassy took issue with what it termed one Thai media outlet, which had chosen to feature an interview concerning what it referred to as the Taiwanese independence movement.

Virulent denunciation of Taiwan’s Foreign Minister and the contents of the TV interview on the current situation across the disputed Taiwan Strait

In a virulent tone, it described the comments by the foreign minister as ‘fallacies’, saying that he had ‘viciously attacked the proposal of a peaceful reunification of China’ in the broadcast interview.

The Embassy went further and described the comments by Taiwan’s foreign minister as ‘ridiculous remarks that were not worth refuting at all’ while accusing the Thai TV station of providing a platform for Taiwanese independence where separatists could propagate fallacies.

The Embassy said that such activity harmed China’s interests and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

‘We strongly deplore and reject this,’ the shrill statement declared. 

The Chinese Embassy statement, issued on Facebook, noted that it was a universally acknowledged fact that Taiwan was an inalienable part of China.

Embassy warned any questioning of the status or sovereignty of Taiwan by Thailand’s media was detrimental to relations between China and Thailand

It warned that any action that raised issues questioning China’s territorial integrity and promoted separatism ran contrary to the interests of both China and Thailand’s peoples’ friendship.

The statement went further and described such practices or media activity as an ‘abuse of freedom of the press’ and called on the media in Thailand to respect the territorial and sovereign integrity of China while asking them to correct past mistakes and to take steps to ensure that the Chinese people were not hurt again. 

The broadside from the Chinese mission in Bangkok drew a vigorous response from local social media followers on Facebook, who inundated the Chinese Embassy’s Facebook page with flags featuring Taiwan and the United States as well as asserting Thailand’s support for Taiwan’s struggle in addition to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. 

Thailand’s pro-democracy public flock to post their support for Taiwan and Hong Kong’s independence as states in the pursuit of freedom and democracy

Many comments, which received a multitude of likes and heart emojis, stated that Taiwan was a country.

At the same time, some reminded China of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, when the Chinese military 1989 put an end to a flowering pro-democracy movement in the country ruled by the iron fist of the Communist Party since 1949.

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China, despite its shift to a capitalist economic model, remains a one-party totalitarian state governed by a Communist Party elite with growing signs of public discontent amid an economic crisis that has led to high levels of youth unemployment.

In 1989, the Chinese leadership used its military to brutally crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing and other cities, which had run from April 15th to June 4th.

No final figures were ever given for the death toll in the Tiananmen Square Massacre, with official figures ranging from a couple of hundred to dissident estimates of several thousand casualties.

Many of the public’s comments on the Chinese Embassy Bangkok’s Facebook page on Saturday and Sunday referred to this and showed heart signs and flags linking Thailand and Taiwan, with some showing cartoons of the western Winnie the Pooh character, which young Thais often use to poke fun at the Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping.

What has happened in Hong Kong has influenced the people of Taiwan and the broader public in Thailand and Southeast Asia, particularly the young

Over the last decade, since the pro-democracy movement erupted in Hong Kong and which has subsequently been brutally put down, there has developed a relationship between young people in Thailand, Hong Kong, Myanmar and their Taiwanese counterparts who see and object strongly to the growing authoritarianism in China.

This is a rising attitude across Southeast Asia among a more educated, assertive, confident and pro-western younger population. 

The strongly worded language in the Chinese Embassy bulletin on Facebook described the interview with the 69-year-old Taiwanese Foreign Minister, who has been in office since 2018, on the Thai PBS media outlet as ‘spreading nonsense to those who want to separate Taiwan from China.’ 

Foreign Minister Wu underlined that Taiwan wants peace as it faces the emerging and genuine prospect of either an invasion or an economic blockade

In the interview with the Thai PBS journalist, Mr Joseph Wu Jaushieh highlighted that Taiwan would leave no stone unturned to prevent the island state’s dispute with China from becoming a military confrontation or forcible economic coercion.

As a matter of fact, western analysts increasingly speculate that China is preparing to launch an economic embargo on Taiwan, using its growing naval power and air force to cut off the island.

The foreign minister described Taiwan as a responsible actor and said it was determined to avoid conflict and was available to engage in dialogue with China. 

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The senior minister quoted Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s National Day address this year, where she stated: ‘Peace is the only option for the two sides across the strait.’

Xi Jinping’s 2019 overtures regarding a two-system, one-China deal soured by what has happened in Hong Kong, with opinion polls pointing towards conflict

Mr Wu referred to President Xi Jinping’s statement in 2019, proposing Taiwan be reunified with China based on one country, two systems and a one-China principle. 

Afterwards, the foreign minister said that to the leadership in Taiwan, this sounded very similar to what had happened in Hong Kong, which later saw the evisceration of democratic rights granted to the former colony under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the treaty which led to Hong Kong coming under the control of Beijing in 1997.

The failure to uphold the treaty with the United Kingdom has undermined trust in China and its ruling Communist Party worldwide as Beijing stifled democracy and free speech in Hong Kong, mainly since the draconian National Security law went into effect there in 2022.

Indeed, the plight of Hong Kong has reinforced attitudes in Taiwan, which are still ambivalent concerning its ties with China but with an overwhelming majority now not in favour of any form of reunification.

Indeed, opinion polls do not bode well for a peaceful resolution to the growing chasm that has deepened across the Taiwan Strait.

A 2020 opinion poll in Taiwan suggested that 54% of the public would support moving to de jure independence for the country to match its de facto status, with only 23.4% opting to retain the status quo.

China now seen as on a war footing with the possibility of the Communist Party using force to subjugate Taiwan rising strongly backed by the public

Only 12.5% of people in Taiwan now favour some reunification with China, and 10% hold no view on the matter. 

On the other hand, in Communist China, which under President Xi Jinping has become increasingly nationalistic, a poll in May 2023 showed that 55% of the public was in favour of launching a unification war to take back Taiwan by force.

The poll finding follows President Xi’s consolidation of power in Beijing in October 2022, in which he installed a new administration and called for the country to be put on a war footing.

The 28th National Congress of the Communist Party heard President Xi Jinping use forceful rhetoric to promise over 1,400 Communist Party officials that China and Taiwan would be reunited by military means if necessary.

Minister in Thai PBS interview made it clear that the island state and its people would not give up on democracy and was preparing to defend itself

In the Thai BPS broadcast, which was aired on national television on November 3rd, the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Mr Wu, underlined that his country would not give up on democracy.

He pointed to renewed efforts over the last five years to strengthen the island’s self-defence capabilities with a consequent increase in the national defence budget. 

At the same time, increased supplies of military hardware have been agreed upon by the Pentagon and the US Congress, as well as reports of US armed forces personnel acting as trainers on the island.

Significantly, the United States has been reportedly redeploying its forces and military capability in the Asia-Pacific to be able to deal with the threatened invasion or commencement of hostilities against Taiwan from China.

The new posture includes recently acquired bases in the Philippines, which has also moved closer to the United States under President Ferdinand Marcos.

Foreign Minister Wu highlighted that over half the world’s freight or cargo passes through the Taiwan Strait, while currently, 90% of advanced microchips are produced on the island.

Minister warns of colossal threat to the World Economy if hostilities break out in the Taiwan Strait

He warned that any commencement of hostilities would lead to a severe impact on the world’s global supply chain and economy.

The cabinet minister said he believed this has led to international recognition of the severity of the problem posed by Chinese aggression towards Taiwan.

Consequently, this has led to increased support for the isolated state’s struggle to confirm or consolidate its status.

Currently, only 13 states around the world recognise the Republic of China or Taiwan as an independent state, with many countries in the early 1970s opting for the One China diplomatic compromise supported by the United States and the United Nations, where countries theoretically recognised Chinese sovereignty in return for normal diplomatic relations. 

One China diplomatic compromise flourished in the 1970s and has isolated Taiwan, but this is changing with the drift towards autocracy in Beijing 

In July 1975, Thailand joined this consensus when it recognised the People’s Republic of China in Beijing while downgrading the status of the Republic of China or Taiwan, which still maintains unofficial diplomatic links with the Kingdom and its government. 

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Accordingly, Thailand has since repeatedly upheld the One China principle, as recently as October 19th, coinciding with the visit of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, where a communiqué described relations between Thailand and China as ‘close as one family’ while it bound Thailand to uphold the One China policy with the Thai government expressing its support also for a ‘one country, two systems’ resolution to the contentious issue.

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