China continues to flex its economic muscles to force foreign companies to toe the political line on Taiwan.
It has threatened to end business dealings with any airlines that refuse to list Taiwan as “Taiwan, CN,” and many airlines are now bowing to China’s demands rather than lose business in the lucrative Chinese market. Delta Air Lines started the line of public apologists in January, and Air France and Qantas added their names most recently.
It’s not just airlines. Major companies such as The Gap and Marriott also have experienced China’s economic bullying, and China fined the Japanese company Muji because a package listed Taiwan as a country rather than a Chinese province.
Less formidable countries also bow to China’s economic pressure. The Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso recently brokediplomatic ties with Taiwan, valuing economic benefits from China over supporting the island nation.
Each surrender of freedom represents China’s use of its economic weight to manipulate companies and countries for political purposes. Rather than trying to isolate Taiwan, the Chinese might do better if they tried to emulate their small neighbor instead.
China ranked only 110th out of 180 in The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, which lands it in the “mostly unfree” category.
China’s open market rating in the Index of Economic Freedom lags behind the world average. Its investment freedom score is just 25 out of 100 versus the world average of 59.5, and its fiscal freedom score is 20 out of 100 versus the world average of 49. State-owned enterprises crowd out private and foreign investment.
All of this holds back economic growth to the detriment of the Chinese people. A truly free market for private investment in goods and services is crucial if China is to achieve the economic freedom and prosperity its people deserve.
Taiwan, in contrast, is the 13th-freest economy in the world and fifth-freest in the Asia-Pacific region. Because of this, Taiwan boasts a gross domestic product per capita three times larger than mainland China. The economic prosperity in Taiwan results from its stable democratic government and its relatively free economy.
In many respects, Taiwan represents what China could be if it adopted democratic and free market reforms. Companies and countries should think long and hard before acquiescing to political pressure aimed at isolating and disempowering it.
It is also vital that the U.S. and other freedom-loving countries continue to stand strong with Taiwan. There is much to lose for all concerned if the communist Chinese way prevails over freedom and democracy.
This piece originally appeared in the Daily Signal