Two Chinese female golfers pulled out of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship after reportedly being instructed to do so by higher-ups in Beijing. It is believed that the incident is China’s way of showing disapproval of Taiwan’s nationhood. The relationship between both countries has deteriorated to new lows in recent times as China’s desperate attempts to re-merge with Taiwan have been vehemently opposed by the island nation.
No golf in Taiwan
World No. 9 Shanshan Feng and rookie player Yu Liu were expected to participate in the championship that was held between October 25 and 28, 2018. A few days before the tournament, Ruby Chen, who manages the players, revealed that both golfers would not attend the championship.
When asked for a reason, the agent refused to comment while also saying that there was no pressure on them to pull out from the event. The players too were tight-lipped about the issue. “They said I can’t respond regarding the issue of withdrawing from the competition,” said Liu (Golf Digest).
It is very unusual for players to withdraw their names from a championship unless they are injured. Media reports suggest that a few high ranking officials from Beijing had put pressure and forced the players to pull out of the Taiwan tournament. Neither the General Administration of Sport of China nor The China Golf Association made any comment regarding the unofficial ban imposed on the players.
“We respect each individual’s decision to attend or not to attend any international sporting event, regardless of the reason behind it, because we consider that to be a private matter,” said Huang Hsiao-fen, section chief for the International and Cross Straits Sports Division of Taiwan’s Sports Administration (Channel News Asia).
Sports is not the only area where Beijing is trying to isolate Taiwan. Many countries, mostly from South America and Africa, have been induced by Beijing to give up their support for Taiwan’s nationhood in exchange for investments, financial aid, and trade deals.
Recently, the Dominican Republic opened its embassy in China, a few months after it had severed ties with Taiwan. Associating with Beijing “serves the fundamental interests of the Dominican people and completely conforms to the trend of the times,” said Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister (Stars and Stripes).
Sao Tome and Principe , Panama, and Burkina Faso are the three other countries which have cut ties with Taiwan in recent times. And given that Beijing has given more powers to the Catholic Church to operate in China, the Vatican too will likely feel the pressure to abandon their recognition of Taiwan’s nationhood very soon.
In Australia, the government walked out of a proposed Free Trade Agreement with Taiwan after Chinese officials warned against such actions. “The Chinese government made it clear to me that circumstances had changed between Taiwan and mainland China and that China would not look favourably on Australia seeking to pursue a free trade agreement with Taiwan, as New Zealand had done some years ago,” said Julie Bishop, former foreign minister (The Sydney Morning Herald).
Beijing’s increasing aggression toward Taiwan is said to be driven by President Xi Jinping. It comes from a desire to merge during his lifetime so as to carve his name in history as “the leader who unified China.”