Kowtowing Comes Into Fashion – The Wall Street Journal


Myra Lu

The flag of Taiwan at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Dec. 29, 2017.


Brent Lewin/Bloomberg News

Three luxury brands—Versace, Coach and Givenchy—apologized to Beijing last weekend for having labeled Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, as separate from China. It has become a ritual: A hapless Western web designer includes Taiwan—correctly—in a list of countries, an army of Chinese trolls, paid and unpaid, claim offense, and the Western company capitulates to their demands.

Fashion houses, airlines, hotel chains, car makers and sporting-goods companies have all found themselves on the receiving end of Beijing’s wrath over the past few years. Eyeing China’s immense potential market, these multinationals seem to believe they have no choice but to toe the line of Chinese Communist Party. Their apologies sound like party propaganda: “The Givenchy brand has always respected China’s sovereignty and firmly adhered to the One China principle.”

In fact, Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, and neither government has jurisdiction over the other. Those who have visited or done business with Taiwan know it’s not part of China. Taiwan is its own country.

Taiwan is a nation in every measurable sense. Its 23 million people are dismayed that the Western world—which takes pride in valuing freedom and human rights—is willing to bend the knee to an authoritarian government with expansionist aspirations, one that puts religious minorities into “re-education” camps.

Markets are important, especially for luxury brands that depend on wealthy Chinese for their growth. These private companies do business with people from Taiwan, too, but that market is a drop in the bucket, comparatively speaking. Consequently, it may seem to make financial sense to kowtow to Beijing and repeat the false narrative that Taiwan is a province of China. But one hopes business acumen would dictate that overreliance on a single market is a bad idea.

Democratic countries, and companies that claim to believe in corporate social responsibility, should band together to ignore the whimpering of China’s internet army. That would give hope to those who cherish democracy, freedom and reality.

Ms. Lu is press director at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.

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