China threatens to halt medical supplies after Netherlands changes Taiwan rep office name

China calls name change of office 'provocative,' threatens consumer boycott of Dutch goods

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China Chairman Xi Jinping.

China Chairman Xi Jinping. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to the Netherlands' decision to change the name of its de facto embassy in Taiwan, China is threatening a halt in medical supplies and a boycott of Dutch products by Chinese consumers.

On Tuesday (April 28), The Netherlands Trade and Investment Office changed its name to “Netherlands Office Taipei," with Dutch representative in Taipei Guy Wittich referring to the new moniker as "little bit less, but a lot more." In a video clip that was released on Monday evening but later taken down, Wittich elaborated that the name had been changed and simplified because of an expansion of activities in many new areas between the two countries.

Wittich said that the terms "trade and investment" had been taken out, as the scope of cooperation between the two countries had increased. Over the past eight years, the Australian, British, Japanese, and Polish representative offices have similarly simplified the names of their de facto embassies in Taiwan.

In response, the Chinese embassy in the European country on Tuesday lodged "solemn representations" and demanded a "clarification" of the name change from the Dutch government. The embassy claimed that the name change "concerns China's core interests" and reminded the Netherlands to dutifully adhere to its "one China principle."

China's state-run mouthpiece the Global Times on Tuesday cited "analysts" as speculating that because the announcement came on the Netherlands' King's Day (April 27), it was a commemoration of Dutch colonial rule in Taiwan during the 17th century. The Chinese outlet then claimed that the name change "boasts its former glory and could humiliate the island."

Another Global Times report released that same day cited more "analysts" as saying that the "provocative move" is "destructive to regional stability" and would "likely face a backlash." It then claimed that Chinese netizens on China's tightly censored and carefully orchestrated social media platforms had allegedly called on "Chinese companies to immediately stop exporting medical supplies to the country."

The report also claimed that Chinese netizens are also demanding a boycott of Dutch products and canceling their travel plans to the Netherlands. Other netizens allegedly posted images of Ming Dynasty leader Zheng Chenggong, who defeated the Dutch in Taiwan, and wrote: "Although he was from the Ming dynasty, many of his descendants are still here, just across the Taiwan Straits."

The communist mouthpiece then cited Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, as saying that the Netherlands' plans to boost its relations with Taiwan increases its "interference in China's internal affairs, which is extremely destructive to regional stability and has seriously disturbed international efforts to combat COVID-19." He then accused Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of bowing to foreign countries to realize "its goal of Taiwan independence."

Li claimed that the move would somehow "tear apart Taiwan society" and result in "long-term trauma to the island." He too then suggested that China may "consider suspending medical supplies to the Netherlands."

China's threat of halting the shipment of medical supplies comes at a time when the Netherlands is suffering from 38,802 confirmed cases and 4,711 deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), a higher death toll than the official numbers in China, the origin of the catastrophic global pandemic.

However, China's threat to withhold medical supplies could ring hollow, as the Netherlands recently recalled 600,000 substandard medical masks that had been imported from China. Numerous other countries have reported similar issues with Chinese-made medical gear.