A senior Chinese official directed a tirade at U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after the latter gave a policy speech criticizing China’s authoritarian aggression, saying that Pence’s remarks “reveal nothing but his arrogance and hypocrisy.”
During a speech at the Wilson Center on Oct. 24, Pence expressed hope to build a constructive relationship with China based on fairness and mutual respect. Similar to the speech he gave at the Hudson Institute last year, he rebuked Beijing for its persecution of Uyghur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, unethical trade practices, and bullying of Taiwan.
The U.S. administration recently imposed a visa restriction on Chinese officials complicit in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Highlighting the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Pence said the protesters have the “admiration of millions of Americans.” He also called out American corporations such as the NBA (National Basketball Association) and Nike for kowtowing to Beijing on the issue of Hong Kong and muzzling freedom of speech.
Beijing Hits Back
During an Oct. 25 press conference, Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, expressed “strong indignation” in response to Pence’s remarks.
She called Pence’s speech “full of political bias and lies.”
With respect to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang, she repeated the Chinese regime’s narrative that Western countries were fomenting instability by remarking on the issues, saying that Pence and other U.S. officials were spreading “wanton accusations and slander.”
Hua also dismissed the allegations of Beijing pressure to censor Western companies, saying that they enjoy “full business autonomy.”
“There is no such thing as enterprises being ‘coerced,’” she said.
But such coercion does indeed take place. In April 2018, China’s aviation authority wrote letters to 44 international airlines demanding them to drop all references on their websites or in other material that suggests Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are separate territories from China. The Chinese government considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan as part of its territory, despite it having its own democratically-elected government, military, and currency. Hong Kong and Macau, both former European colonies, reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 and 1999 respectively.
State Media Reactions
State-run media coverage was less inflammatory and made note of the “positive statements” in Pence’s speech relating to the progress in trade talks.
But state media nonetheless criticized the U.S. administration for wanting to “change the mainland’s political system, which Beijing will never accept,” read an editorial by China Daily, an English-language state-run media outlet.
Pence said in his remarks that “Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people,” praising the island as a beacon of “Chinese culture and democracy.”
He also blasted the Chinese regime for luring away Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific allies. It has recently pressured two of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to drop ties with the island, in an attempt to diminish Taiwan’s international standing.
The article also took aim at Pence’s expressed support for Hong Kong, saying that linking the “so-called human rights issues” with the trade negotiations is Washington’s “ploy to contain China’s rise.”
In a similar vein, state-run tabloid Global Times also carried an editorial on Oct. 25 accusing the United States of trying to challenge China’s current political system.
“The Global Times in its editorial said that…the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] wants to walk its own path,” speaking on behalf of Chinese citizens, said Chen Pokong, a U.S.-based political commentator, on his YouTube channel.
“It gives the impression that the Chinese people have a choice [in choosing the country’s path], but there’s actually no choice,” he added, noting that Chinese citizens did not choose to have the CCP’s one-Party rule.