Hardly a mature approachChina’s retaliation against our government’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system exceeds the limits. Following an earlier step to ban charter flights for Chinese tourists to visit South Korea during the Lunar New Year holidays, the Chinese government has begun to put restrictions on cultural and art exchanges between the two countries as well. World-famous soprano Jo Sumi posted Tuesday a Twitter message saying her scheduled trip to China for a performance was abruptly cancelled without any proper explanation.
Jo was scheduled to kick off a vocal tour of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai from Feb. 19 at the invitation of China. A few days ago, world-renowned Korean pianist Paik Kun-woo also saw a scheduled recital for March suddenly called off due to the Chinese authorities’ refusal to issue a visa.
With regard to the cancellation of Jo’s tour, the New York Times attributed it to Beijing’s determination to punish South Korea for the Thaad deployment, quoting an involved Chinese orchestra which “refused to answer questions about the cancellation.”
In fact, Chinese authorities have prohibited Korean artists from conducting performances in China since last November. Representatives for Korean performance groups can receive visas on the condition that they would not engage in activities for a performance. We wonder if the authorities’ narrow mindset as seen in its repeated denials of visas for purely artistic activities can really fit China’s role and image as a global leader in the 21st century.
China started putting the pressure on South Korea in a full-fledged way after Seoul decided to deploy the Thaad battery to counter the threat of nuclear-weapon equipped missiles coming from North Korea. The tools Beijing employs to punish Seoul are plenty: restrictions on human and cultural exchanges; fire safety and sanitation checks as well as tax investigations of more than 150 outlets of the Lotte Department Store and Lotte Mart in China; disqualification of Korean automatic toilet seats from being imported; and Chinese military aircraft’s intrusion into our Air Defense Identification Zone earlier this month.
Such actions are in sharp contrast with what Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for — opening up and free trade — at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. China is increasingly becoming a country whose words are different from its actions. We hope this is not a side that Beijing really wants to show the rest of the world.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 25, Page 30