China pressing Canadian companies to call Taiwan part of China, state documents show
|Toronto Star 15 Feb 2019 at 18:43|
VANCOUVERâ First it was Air Canada , then Royal Bank . Both companies started labelling the island nation of Taiwan as part of China last May.
And China is now pressuring even more Canadian multinationals to do the same, according to passages of the Blue Book on the Cyber Rule of Law (2018) obtained by The Star.
Chinaâs State Councillor Wang Yong, right, meets with Canadaâs Finance Minister Bill Morneau, left, during the first China-Canada economic and financial strategy dialogue in Beijing on Nov. 11. According to The World Bank, China is the planetâs second largest economy, with a population of 1.3 billion.Â Â (JASON LEE / AFP/Getty Images)
The book, published last month, condemns more than 60 of the worldâs top firms for violating the âOne China Principleâ â the Chinese government position that Taiwan remains a part of Chinaâs territory after it separated in 1949.
The multinationals include Apple, Amazon, Siemens, LG Electronics and Sony as well as Toronto-based Manulife and Alimentation Couche-Tard in Montreal. All have been accused in the Blue Book of listing places like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau âincorrectlyâ on their websites.
According to a passage written in Chinese, acknowledging Taiwan as independent âviolates the international understanding of the One China Principle. This is against the China governmentâs right to govern.â
Canada does not recognize Taiwan â which has its own democratically elected government and laws â as a sovereign state and does not maintain government-to-government relations with the capital Taipei, according to Global Affairs Canada. However, Canada does maintain a trade office in Taipei and touts co-operation in several areas, such as foreign investment and human-rights issues.
Canada boasts of historical and economic relations with Hong Kong and Macau but recognizes them as âspecial administrative regionsâ under the authority of the Chinese state, despite them maintaining separate legal, administrative and judicial systems.
The book launched in Beijing on Jan. 12 and is compiled by the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The academy is a think tank that performs research and offers policy suggestions at the behest of two political bodies: the Communist Party of Chinaâs Central Committee, a policy forum for top leaders, and the executive body of the state, the State Council.
âAlthough we have focused on correcting airline companies and are having some success, if we broaden the perspective these airline companies take up a small percentage of all international firms,â the Blue Book says, translated from Chinese.
Last May, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration instructed Air Canada and 43 other international airlines to change references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau on their websites and promotional material to comply with Communist Party standards.
Air Canada was accused by much of the Taiwanese-Canadian community of bowing to Beijingâs influence when it changed its designation of Taiwan to be part of China. At the time, it said the change was âto comply with all legal requirements in all jurisdictions to which we fly.â
In January, Taiwanâs Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the âoutrageous demandâ by Beijing on multinationals.
The ministry stated that Beijingâs move to âimposeâ its laws on multinational companies exposes âits malicious intent in using political tactics to interfere with private enterprise.â It added that pressuring multinationals violates âthe spirit of free international commerce.â
The Star reached out to the Chinese embassy in Canada for an interview but did not receive a response.
The Star also reached out to Manulife, but the company did not respond. The financial services and management group manages $1.1 trillion and promotes itself as one of the fastest-growing companies in Asia, with offices in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, among other locations.
Alimentation Couche-Tard declined to comment. The convenience-store giant has 10,000 locations in North America, including Circle K and Macâs, worth a total of $24 billion, according to Forbes. Founder Alain Bouchard said in a 2017 BNN Bloomberg interview that the company wants to increase its presence in Asia and sees growth opportunities there.
Jonathan Manthorpe, a veteran foreign correspondent and author of Claws of the Panda: Beijingâs Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada, said naming these companies in the Blue Book is a type of âpsychological warfare.â
The same methods the Communist Party uses to pressure countries into cutting ties with Taiwan are being used for commercial isolation as well, he said.
âIâm not sure what good it does China in the long run. Many multinationals might well go along with Beijingâs blackmail in order to continue doing business with China,â Manthorpe said. âBut it actually doesnât change the reality that Taiwan is an independent nation.â
James Palmer, editor of the magazine Foreign Policy, describes Beijingâs latest move of pressuring multinationals as a way to âweaponize Chinese law against international speechâ and âthreatenâ companies to comply or face charges in China.
Palmer added that if a company had to choose between aligning with China or Taiwan politically, the size of the Chinese market is enough to sway them to âbend to China with very little pressure,â said Palmer, who lived in China for 15 years, during which time he worked as a journalist and historian.
According to The World Bank, China is the planetâs second largest economy, with a population of 1.3 billion.
âCorporations have no commitments to independence or moral values,â Palmer added.
Earlier this month, an Angus Reid poll indicated two-thirds or 62 per cent of respondents say Chinaâs record on human rights and the rule of law should be a more important consideration for Canada than trade and investment opportunities when assessing their relationship.
The online survey was conducted in January among a representative randomized sample of 1,700 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.