Human rights don’t weigh much on China’s scales as China seeks leadership in the world. For others, human rights must then be even more important.
In China was proudly noted early in the year that the film was directed by Chloé Zhao Nomadland garnered international attention. Among other things, Zhao is nominated for an Oscar. Zhao lives in the United States but is Chinese and she is a woman. The Chinese were reasonably proud.
The joy, however, lasted only a short time. Chinese media reported, among other things, that Zhao accused China of lying in an interview. News of Zhao’s success disappeared from most Chinese social media sites, The New York Times reported.
Nationalism is a dangerous force to be used to control the people, but in China it is part of the standard government armament. Nationalism was also used in the case of Zhao. It seeks spectacular victories in the world and on the home front. The same can be said of many countries, but China strives for great power through nationalism.
The list of Chinese deeds is already numb. China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong, which is part of China but has sovereignty. Beijing is increasingly threatening the island of Taiwan with occupation. Taiwan is independent, but Beijing thinks it is part of China.
In the world, China strikes as soon as it suspects its interests are at stake. In the negotiations with the regime of US President Joe Biden, China will not compromise on any of the numerous issues where the country has drifted on different paths with the United States and also Europe.
Finland a small country like this is used to being pretty much on the sidelines of Western disputes with China, but no more.
It was only after the episode that came to light that Finland rejected a Chinese attempt to buy an Arctic airport from Lake Kemijärvi. It was bigger news than I quoted it. At the same time, Finland, like others, monitors China’s presence in the Arctic, and elsewhere.
At the end of March, Finland was an EU country imposing sanctions on four Chinese for their participation in the repression of the Muslim population in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Four people is a fairly small proportion of China’s billion population. However, The Financial Times, among others, noted that this was the first joint Western punishment against China since the bloody repression of the Tiananmen protests in 1989.
United States now challenges China together with Europe. The situation is repeated in the EU Parliament, where Finnish MEPs are involved in critical decisions about China, and the targets of the counter-sanctions imposed by it.
Does Finland have an alternative? Not if Finland wants to maintain its position as an open democracy. Even a small country must have a view of the distortion of China’s exercise of power, and a willingness to work with like-minded countries to bring about distortions. In the meantime, we need to engage in an open discussion with the Chinese leadership.
President Sauli Niinistö’s offer to host negotiations between the great powers in the spirit of the OSCE is an example of this. Although Niinistö did not make an invitation specifically to China, he highlighted China’s growing influence in world politics.
There are still many twists and turns ahead of the road before Niinistö’s proposed date for negotiations in 2025 is ahead. Before that, for example, Russia has time to raise tensions with Ukraine many times. But China has its own chapter, and change has been rapid.
Yet at the beginning of the millennium, a Chinese diplomat was able to express his views very touchingly over lunch.
An anonymous diplomat appearing here told how he had taken his children to look at the poor rural countryside of the area where he was from. The idea of the diplomat was that the teenager would learn to appreciate the wealth in which his generation now lived, and with it the freedom to which they could now afford. However, the teenager admired the flowers and asked when to go back. The lesson was that you never know what the next generation will learn, and at least gratitude is promised.
Those Chinese who value different freedoms than what their leaders are prepared for are greatly disappointed. The most important value of the Chinese leadership is to stay in power, and comprehensive nationalism is the most important way to secure this goal.
Finland alone cannot prevent China’s hard grips, but it does not have to accept them either. Here is the time to think about how, for example, hosting the Winter Olympics in China next February will fit into the Chinese campaign. If you go to the Olympics, then at least you don’t have to attend any national celebrations.
The author is a freelance journalist specializing in security policy.
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