Taiwanese people “must be re-educated” to ensure their submission to the mainland Chinese regime, according to a prominent Chinese diplomat who admitted that public opinion in Taiwan has turned against Beijing.
This overhaul of Taiwanese public opinion will be carried out after the democratic society is brought under Chinese Communist control, according to Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye, Beijing’s top diplomat in France. Lu has raised the specter of such a process repeatedly as Chinese forces conduct military exercises around the island in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan.
“Why do I say ‘re-educate?’ Because the authorities of Taiwan have made an education of ‘desinicisation’ on its population, which is effectively indoctrinated and intoxicated,” Lu tolda French media outlet on Sunday, according to a South China Morning Post translation. “It must be re-educated to eliminate separatist thought and secessionist theory.”
The statement echoed the language used by Beijing to authorize the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang as part of an official plan “to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to sinicise the religion.” Chinese Communist officials have established mass detention camps in Xinjiang, which the central government defends as vocational educational centers designed to stamp out terrorist ideology. Uyghur survivors of the camps describe the detention program as a form of genocide, an allegation that the State Department has adopted.
“The stated goal of the current campaign is to ‘Sinicize religion’ and ‘adapt religion to a socialist society,’ suggesting that Beijing wagers that it now possesses the political, diplomatic, and technological capabilities to transform religion and ethnicity in Chinese society in a way that its predecessors never could, even during the peak horrors of the Cultural Revolution and other heinous Maoists campaigns intended to remake Chinese society,” as then-Ambassador Kelley E. Currie told Congress in 2018.
Lu conceded that the Taiwanese people oppose political union with Beijing, although Chinese officials more often portray the Taiwanese population as “compatriots” whose views are distinct from the so-called “separatist forces” ruling in Taipei.
“I think that behind the government of Tsai Ing-wen are Americans,” Lu said. “With this education and propaganda, public opinion in Taiwan has changed significantly. It is said that now most Taiwanese are for independence. I think this is a dangerous trend.”
His colleague in Washington struck a different note last month. “People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are compatriots,” Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang told the Aspen Security Forum. “The reason we don’t give up on non-peaceful means for reunification is not targeting Taiwan people. It is to constrain ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, to prevent foreign interference, to protect the prospects for peaceful reunification.”
Lu made the argument in the teeth of a social media backlash against his initial call for Taiwan’s “re-education,” although the repetition might not reflect a deliberate choice by Lu’s superiors in Beijing.
“I’m guessing this is folks at an embassy trying to take the initiative and doing so poorly,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Zack Cooper said. “It obviously got a lot of traction in social media, so it may be that the embassy’s initial response is, ‘oh, this is playing really well,’ even though … it got traction for all the wrong reasons.”
Lu has a reputation for a defiant attitude in public relations, having argued previously that the metric of success is Chinese public opinion alone.
“We do not evaluate our work by how foreigners see us but whether the people in our nation are happy with our work,” Lu said last year.