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China’s state-run media attacks HBO’s John Oliver – here’s how

China's President Xi Jinping. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 02, 2021

Last week, the Chinese Communist Party’s state-run newspaper Global Times attacked “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver for his show’s Oct. 24 episode on Taiwan’s independence from China and claimed the comedian host “misleads [the] public” on the island nation.

In the article published on October 26, writer Mu Lu argued that it is “obvious to anyone with common sense that US elites like John Oliver are playing dumb” when it comes to the question of whether Taiwan is a sovereign nation or an island that belongs to China.

Lu asserted that Oliver’s show is “deliberately confusing in many ways,” including an attempt to “portray Taiwan as a ‘vibrant’ democracy.” The writer also took issue with Oliver’s decision to highlight a poll that showed 87 percent of Taiwan people want to “maintain status quo in the straights.”

“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?’ [said Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University.],” the article stated.

“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?,’” it added, taunting the United States military.

In the episode, Oliver brings attention to the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, who said in an interview that Taiwan is “functionally an independent country.”

“The reality and what it is now is that we are already a functionally independent country. We have our own government. We have our own election,” she said.

“The idea is: we don’t have a need to declare our independence. We are an independent country,” Ing-wen added when asked if Taiwan had plans to formally declare their independence.

An editorial in the Taipei Times – an English-language daily newspaper in Taiwan – said the Global Times’ reaction to Oliver “exposed” China’s weakness when it comes to the issue of Taiwan independence.

“It is understandable that Chinese state media would twist the facts, even in English. What is perhaps even more telling is that Beijing felt the need to respond at all to a satirical sketch, highlighting its fragility in the face of facts and the importance it places in maintaining its disinformation campaign,” the editorial stated.

It added that the Chinese Communist Party is “threatened” by any challenges to its official stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty because the CCP is “unable to fathom the idea of free thought and dissent.”

“The Chinese government would have been better off not responding at all to Oliver’s sketch. In doing so, it emphasized its confusion over facts, the illegitimacy of its position and its weakness in the face of free speech,” the editorial continued.