FORSCHUNGSHORIZONTE ▪ POLITIK & KULTUR

Berlin, Germany

TOPIC 6 / 2021

ORWELL'S NEWSPEAK

▪WHAT SCIENCE OFFERS ON THE TAIWAN CONFLICT

„The Ministry of Truth—Minitrue, in Newspeak (Newspeak was the official language of Oceania)  […] was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE – FREEDOM IS SLAVERY – IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH:

[…] The Ministry of Truth […] concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts.“ (George Orwell 1984, 1949, p. 6).

George Orwell’s novel “1984” is no longer fiction today. Well-sounding goals have long been incorporated into political agendas that strive for the exact opposite. The tensions between the People’s Republic and Taiwan (Republic of China) are a good example of this. Orwell’s literary subject is based on the linguistic Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, according to which language influences thinking. This can be used to deconstruct power techniques used by dictatorships and their ruling elites. In the case of the People’s Republic, language politics play a key role. It regulates public use of language and is intolerant of regional and minority languages. Trough language planning, Pejing stages its “peaceful reunification” while at the same time threatening Taiwan with war if it resists. This corresponds to the slogan “War is peace“. Equally ambiguous is the phrase “freedom is slavery”, according to which Taiwan must have fallen into economic dependency because of its desire for freedom. Again, the opposite is the case: Beijing’s economic reforms in the 1990s were an attempt to copy the successful model of the tiger state and “class enemy”. Finally, the People’s Republic has adopted Orwell’s slogan “ignorance is strength”: Its UN membership (1971) is based on a deception of the world community about the victims of Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and the expected consequences of the digital revolution.

Read more: Sabine Riedel, VR China’s Claim to Power on Taiwan. Beijing not only Threatens the Republic of China (Taiwan) with Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” , in: FPK, Vol. 5, No. 11 (2021 Dec 4), 20 pages.

CHINA'S POLITICAL RHETORIC

▪ PROPAGANDA RESHAPES SOCIAL REALITY

ORWELL’S NEWSPEAK SERVING THE LANGUAGE PLANNERS OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

♦  All modern official languages are the result of a standardisation of selected language norms (grammar, orthography, lexis). Such a standardisation process is a sociolinguistic precondition for the alphabetisation of the broad population. It is developed by social organisations or state language commissions and implemented through the respective national education systems.

♦   China embarked on this path of modernisation at the end of the empire in 1912. The new Republic of China charged a commission with the creation of universally valid language standard. In 1920, it published the first dictionary of the modern Chinese standard language, which since 1932 has been called Guóyǔ (en. national language) or Huáyǔ (en. language of the Chinese).

♦  This did not go far enough for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Since the founding of the People’s Republic (1.10.1949), it has steered language development in favour of its socialist system. But its attempts to introduce the Latin script met with resistance. What remained was a standardisation of the transliteration, which has been internationally recognized as an ISO standard under the name Pinyin since 1982.

♦   As an authoritarian regime, the People’s Republic of China regards language reform as a continuous process. The CCP uses them to assert its leadership power in all areas of society. Since 1956, the Ministry of Education has published a list of selected standard characters for public use, initially with 2200 and today with 8,300 characters. This standard is called Pǔtōnghuà (common language).  

♦  The Republic of China (Taiwan) also pursues a language policy within the framework of its democratic system. It accepts the standard of the People’s Republic (Pǔtōnghuà, Mandarin), but also adheres to the standard from the first half of the 20th century (Guóyǔ). Taiwanese Mandarin transmits the approx. 100,000 surviving characters with their more complex typeface and entirely dispenses with language prohibitions.  

♦   Taipei is not only tolerant of the two Mandarin language norms. In addition, the Republic of China has broken with Chinese nationalism in recent years and allowed regional minority languages to become official languages. This policy of multilingualism spills over into the People’s Republic of China, especially into Hong Kong and Macau. Beijing sees this as a threat to its claim to cultural leadership.

Chinese Language and Dialect Groups

Source: Chinese dialect groups, Wyunhe, File: Map of sinitic dialect – English version, wikipedia, 9.5.2011.

Note: This map is methodically problematic. It does not depict the multilingualism of high-level language (Mandarin) and dialects, but constructs a contrast. Moreover, Cantonese and Taiwanese also exist in standard forms, a differentiation between the two variants of Mandarin in the People’s Republic and on Taiwan is completely missing.

ORWELL’S “WAR IS PEACE”: CHINA’S NATIONALISM TARGETS TAIWAN

♦  The hegemonic claim of the People’s Republic to the Chinese culture and language goes back to the Soviet model. It bears the hallmark of the Commissar for Nationalities Josef Stalin, who had integrated nationalism into the socialist state doctrine. Beijing still adheres to this model today, while Taiwan has been turning away from nationalism since the 1990s.

♦   Until 1990, both sides advocated the one-China doctrine. With the founding of the United Nations (UN), Taiwan was initially accepted with its claim to sole representation and became a member of the UN Security Council. It was not until 1971 that the UN General Assembly followed the People’s Republic’s claim to sole representation, which had ousted Taiwan from the UN and the Security Council.

♦  This history of the conflict shows that the Taiwan question has concerned international politics from the very beginning. Beijing’s argument that it is an internal Chinese affair does not apply and even divides international law: UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 (25.10.1971) was not binding, unlike the decisions of the Security Council. Moreover, Taiwan was not guilty of anything.

♦  In 1990, Taiwan founded a National Reunification Council in the hope of a reconciliation with Beijing. According to Kuomintang representatives, there was a “consensus” in 1992, which Beijing denies to this day. In 1995, China’s President Jiang Zemin reasserted the ownership of Taiwan in eight principles. Taipei then set five conditions of its own.

♦   Since the anti-secession law of 2005, the People’s Republic of China has been increasing pressure on Taiwan with the aim of reunification along the lines of Hong Kong (1997) and Macau (1999). The Republic of China then considered the option of seeking its own UN membership as the second Chinese state (Taiwan), which Beijing interprets as an attempt of secession.

♦ In contrast to the Kuomintang (KMT), which is ready for talks with Beijing, the current president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen (Democratic Progressive Party DPP), named preconditions: Talks on reunification would only be considered if the People’s Republic renounced the use of force and respected the will of the Taiwanese.

ORWELL’S FREEDOM IS SLAVERY: TAIWAN AS A SYMBOL OF FREE WORLD TRADE 

♦   According to socialist theory, Taiwan should have fallen into slavery and dependence on other states because of its desire for freedom. This narrative is contradicted by the fact that, despite diplomatic isolation since 1971, Taiwan has developed into an Asian dragon with high growth rates – even during the Corona crisis – and a system of social security.

♦   In the People’s Republic of China, similar economic growth did not begin until decades later. Constitutional reforms since the beginning of the 1990s allow forms of private ownership that were supposed to transform the centrally planned system into a “socialist market economy”. Beijing obviously wanted to copy the Taiwanese success story.

♦  In contrast to Taiwan, social inequality in the People’s Republic increased enormously. According to the Credit Suisse Report 2021, it is right behind the USA with 9 percent of all millionaires worldwide. At the same time, the number of migrant workers rose to 250 million (31 percent of all workers). According to the World Bank’s definition, 40 percent live in poverty (under 5.50 US dollars a day).

♦   The People’s Republic is also seeking reunification with Taiwan for economic reasons. With its company TSMC, the island is the world market leader in semiconductor technology. In contrast, Beijing is dependent on foreign countries for chip production. According to the plan, it could only become self-sufficient in 2025. But the interest in Taiwanese specialists remains high.

♦ The conflict between the People’s Republic and Taiwan in chip production is relevant for security policy in the region as well as worldwide: If Taiwan would lose its market position, the People’s Republic would have a key position in a highly sensitive branch of industry in terms of security policy. This is a reason for the USA to stand by Taiwan in the event of an escalation.

♦   As Beijing’s relations with Africa show, the ideologically based friendship between the “Afro-Asian peoples” has given way to economic dependency structures. China uses its position as a monopoly provider of infrastructure to acquire land for food production, to the disadvantage of the African population.

Gross domestic product per capita in US dollars of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (1960-2020)

ORWELLS IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH: CULTURAL REVOLUTION  INSTEAD OF HUMAN RIGHTS

♦  The socialist ideology of the People’s Republic blocks the view of real political development. Africa is an example of the great divergence between expectations and reality. For example, the construction activity of Chinese investors favours urbanisation and the rise of poverty settlements (slums). In addition, Africa is losing its own arable land in these deals.

♦  The arm of Chinese government institutions reaches so far into global networks that even academic institutions “set the record straight” on any negative images, such as the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) or the Berlin Marx Engels Centre. They dispel any doubts about Beijing’s self-serving motives in trade with Africa and Europe.

♦   Journalists report, however, that much is not made public because Beijing wants to keep the trade agreements under wraps. Since the adoption of the EU’s Trade Secrets Directive (2016), this lack of transparency has also become a practice in the European Commission, for example with the trade agreement with Canada (CETA), vaccine manufacturers (2020) and the investment agreement with China (CAI).

♦   It was only after pressure from business associations and members of the European Parliament that the Commission had to announce details of the EU-China agreement at the beginning of 2021. According to the agreement, Beijing has the right to fill management positions in the representative offices of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in China with its own staff. After that, the negotiations were put on hold.

♦  The ignorance of the international community about the crimes of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1967), which claimed the lives of about 80 million people, has far-reaching consequences. This was known when the People’s Republic was admitted to the UN (1971), yet Beijing was never held responsible. Its commitment to the “fundamental rights of man” (UN Charter) was only pretended.

♦  This ignorance gives strength to China’s party leadership. It blames the crimes of the Cultural Revolution on the “Gang of Four” in order to maintain the personality cult around Mao. This is what President Xi Jinping is currently building on when he revives the old phrase of “national rejuvenation” in order to discipline the entire society, including Taiwan.

OWN PUBLICATIONS

▪ SABINE RIEDEL IN THE SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSE ON THE TOPIC:

IMPORTANT SOURCES

▪ THIS IS PARTICULARLY RELEVANT FOR RESEARCHERS:

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