OPINION / OBSERVER
John Oliver’s show dodges facts about Taiwan, misleads public
Published: Oct 26, 2021 11:02 PM
HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Photo: AFP

HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Photo: AFP


The latest episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sunday discussed the island of Taiwan. The show was eye-catching enough especially when China on Monday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations, which means the UN recognizes that Taiwan is a region of China and the government of the PRC is the sole legitimate government representing China.

As a comedian show that sometimes covers politics, it is not surprising that it didn't take the issue seriously, yet it reflected that most Westerners don't know why the Taiwan question matters and they don't care about it. They are more of bystanders with their perceptions deeply influenced by the propaganda of Western media and politicians.

In the China-US Joint Communiqué of 1972, the US declared, "The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Straits maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position." Seven years later, the US severed "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan and established diplomatic relationship with the People's Republic of China. 

Since then, the island was like a tool discarded by the US. Until recent years, especially after the US had amped up its competition with China, Washington recalled it has a "Taiwan card" that can be played to better implement its strategic plan of containing China. It's obvious to anyone with common sense that US elites like John Oliver are playing dumb who are now hyping the idea of Taiwan's so-called "undetermined" status.

The latest show is deliberately confusing in many ways. For example, in order to portray Taiwan as a "vibrant" democracy, it mentioned brawls in its Legislative Yuan, including one involving throwing pig guts. But the host evaded the fact that the fight was caused by the Taiwan authority's decision to import US pork containing ractopamine, an additive banned for pig use on Taiwan island. And Tsai Ing-wen made the decision to curry favor from Washington at the cost of the health of the more than 23 million people on the island. 

"Despite the rhetoric of the US about upholding democracy against autocracy and about ideological values, it is clear to all that the US is doing so for its strategic interests in the Western Pacific," Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times. In recent years as the US increases its need to strategically contain China, Washington tries to mobilize every piece of resources and gather partners to pressure Beijing. 

Oliver cited in his show a poll that 87 percent of Taiwan people prefer to maintain status quo in the Straits. However, the pro-secession Democratic Progressive Party authority, in collusion with the US, is trying to break the status quo that vast majority of ordinary Taiwan people favor. 

The Chinese mainland is willing to push forward cross-Straits relations, safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and benefit compatriots on both sides of the Straits. "But if the Taiwan authorities engage in moves for 'Taiwan secession' every day and provoke the one-China principle, why should the Chinese mainland maintain this status quo?" Xin said. 

By then, will the US deploy military assets for the island? Or just that - as Oliver mocked - "a US general would slightly raise an eyebrow?" 


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