What you need to know
The Chinese Communist Party is doubleplusgood at promulgating Chinese duckspeak.
China's "Orwellian nonsense" apparently knows no bounds.
The term was first leveled at the Chinese government in a White House press statement in relation to Beijing's largely successful attempts to bully airlines to reference Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan with descriptors indicating they were part of China.
The put down could equally be applied to the Communist Party of China's, again disappointingly victorious, efforts to pressure multinational companies such as the Marriott hotel chain, Mercedes-Benz and Zara to change their websites to reference "Taiwan, China" or some similar designation.
Taiwan is of course a sovereign country with its own independently functioning democratic government.
In many cases, the companies involved also apologized for this "mistake" in failing to recognize China's territorial integrity, with Gap producing the standout capitulatory performance in offering a profuse mea culpa for selling a t-shirt emblazoned with a map of China that did not include Taiwan, southern Tibet and various Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
The kicker was that the t-shirt was being sold online to customers in Canada, leading to strongly worded editorials lambasting China's ability to enforce its will on companies operating overseas, even down to the way they design their products.
This CCP tactic of press ganging private companies circumvents governments' ability to resist, particularly as most are viciously morally compromised when it comes to their stance on China's human rights abuses.
Yet a report released this week by Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a Canberra-based think-tank, shows that China's government censors have been busy erasing entire posts by various foreign embassies on the Sina Weibo microblogging service, without so much as a peep of public complaint from the governments involved.
Moreover, this behavior is leading those governments to self-censor their posts, Fergus Ryan writes in the report, which offers a deep dive into the art and science of so-called "weiplomacy".
He highlights the Weibo censors' response to the "Orwellian nonsense" post, which had been translated into Mandarin and posted on the U.S. embassy' feed, to show how comments were shorn of liberal voices and the sharing function disabled to prevent widespread dissemintation.
He writes: "This report shows the invisible hand of Beijing’s censors is, for the most part, eschewing heavy-handed censorship for more surreptitious forms. At the same time, it appears that foreign embassies on Weibo are pulling their punches and accepting ‘the sliding slope of red lines and self-censorship inside the Chinese system.'"
But the report also offers a solution: "To not be seen as agreeing to the CCP’s ideological agenda, like-minded governments, in coordination with each other, should commit to publishing transparency reports to reveal the extent to which their legitimate online public diplomacy efforts are being curtailed in China."
In any case, this uncontested tampering with foreign governments' communications and overseas companies' operations gives the lie to just how spineless most actors are when it comes to dealing with China.
Imagine a multinational that choose to brand itself on its outright refusal to engage with China, that traded on moral certitude in choosing to forego the promise of China's teeming market of eager consumers?
With the right marketing, it might just work.
Editor: David Green