Missouri Gov Jay Nixon postponed a trade mission to Taiwan days after the Chinese consulate and St. Louis business leaders complained that the trip could scuttle a potential deal with China to turn Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into a freight hub.The story described:
Members of the Midwest China Hub Commission had advised Nixon that going to Taiwan would anger representatives of the Chinese government during a sensitive time in the negotiations to bring that nation's business to Lambert.
"It's fair to say we didn't think the trip would be helpful," said Mike Jones, chairman of the commission.
On Dec. 1, Nixon announced that he was heading a trade mission to Taiwan and South Korea, visiting the two countries Dec. 10-16. While in Taiwan, the governor was planning to be party to a letter of intent under which Taiwanese businesses would agree to buy $600 million worth of Missouri agricultural products.The Chinese are negotiating a deal with local airport to turn it into a freight hub that would see a few flights a week. Beyond that, local businessmen hope to see more investment from China in local businesses such as biotech and real estate. So for a future that does not yet exist, for goodwill that may or may not result in increased investment, the state government of Missouri tossed aside $600 million in current purchases. The China Cargo Cult claims another victim....
The next day, Jones wrote Nixon a letter on behalf of the commission asking him to delay the trip. The letter said that a representative of the Chinese government was afraid the trip would be received negatively in Beijing.
"Jeffery Yang, the Chinese Consul General for the Midwest … officially contacted the MCHC to express his strong concern that your proposed visit to Taiwan would be misunderstood in Beijing and would probably affect our chances of success," Jones wrote. "(T)he Board of Commissioners of the MCHC respectfully requests that you find a diplomatic way of avoiding your trip to Taiwan."
The issue isn't politicians in the democratic world kow-towing to China. That kind of short-sighted weakness is to be expected. It's even reassuring in its way, that all is normal with the world, like when the story breaks that a "family values" politician is boffing his intern or a vehemently anti-gay preacher is caught cruising gay bars. But does the US government have a position on blatant Chinese interference in the internal affairs of the United States?
Even more interesting is the quote from an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations:
Economy's bio is here. Does she really believe that the good relations between the KMT and the CCP mean that China's attempts to suppress Taiwan in all its aspects are over? Do people really think that in the US?
In recent years, China and Taiwan have increased their economic ties, said Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Economy questioned whether the Chinese would have a serious concern over a deal between Missouri and Taiwan over agriculture products.
"Economic relations are as strong as they have ever been between Taiwan and the mainland," she said.
On the other hand, she could be pointing to something else. This could simply be the local China rep out to make good -- sees an opportunity to impress his superiors, who really have no policy one way or the other on Taiwanese soybean purchases from Missouri, and rise in the world. Said rep then writes crazed letter to local business community, which believes it wholeheartedly, to the vast amusement of himself and his superiors in Beijing. China's anger is now making policy even at the local government level. ADDED: J Michael agrees.
Fact is that if the biotech, real estate, and manufacturing investments in the area are good investments, they will attract investors, whether or not Missouri sells soybeans to Taiwan. Even Chinese investors. Individual Chinese investors don't run around anxiously consulting the news to see whether Missouri has sold soybeans to Taiwan before purchasing real estate in St Louis....
Moreover in a few months no one will remember that the governor of Missouri canceled a trip to Taiwan -- except Beijing, of course, which will search for similar opportunities elsewhere, now that Gov Nixon has validated China's policy of using "anger" as a tool to manage foreigners. You can't gain credit in Beijing by making decisions like this.
Either way, someone from the State Department needs to be talking to China and explaining that this behavior is not acceptable. A statement about interference in Taiwan's trade from the Ma Administration wouldn't hurt either. Perhaps a Congressional resolution?
I hope to follow this up in a couple of years to see whether Lambert airport ever generated $600 million in investments and flight fees for the local economy. Marking the calendar now....
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