Pandemic lets France see true faces of Taiwan, China: French scholar

11/12/2021 08:09 PM
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Stéphane Corcuff, associate professor at the Institut d
Stéphane Corcuff, associate professor at the Institut d'Etudes politiques de Lyon. CNA file photo

Paris, Nov. 12 (CNA) The COVID-19 pandemic has helped France get re-acquainted with Taiwan and provided a boost to its image while that of China tumbles in France's media and political sectors, according to French political scientist Stéphane Corcuff.

The pandemic brought France to the realization that it had long ignored Taiwan due to its relations with China, Corcuff said during a recent interview with CNA.

Taiwan's strong performance in combatting the spread of COVID-19 was proof of the existence of effective political governance and rekindled interest, he said.

"As soon as French political figures saw that, they realized they may have incorrectly assessed Taiwan," said the associate professor at the Institut d'Etudes politiques de Lyon, also known as Sciences Po Lyon.

He also heads the Taipei office of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China and was honored with a Taiwan-France Cultural Award in 2017 for advancing understanding of Taiwan in Europe.

"The image of China is changing, and the image of Taiwan is changing at the same time because we realized, too late in fact, that China is not a reliable partner and even a dangerous partner," Corcuff said.

"The French mythology on China has collapsed with COVID," the Taiwan expert said, arguing that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has essentially destroyed the reforms China has spent 30 to 40 years to achieve in three to four months.

He was referring to China's widely alleged moves to manipulate information and stop the World Health Organization from taking timely decisions to stem COVID-19 outbreaks during the pandemic.

An example of Taiwan's ascendance and China's decline in the eyes of the French is the growing popularity of Taiwan as a destination for French students.

At Sciences Po Lyon, about six students every year applied to study in China in the 2010s, with only two or three students doing so annually for Taiwan, Corcuff said.

The numbers began to reverse in 2019, and during the pandemic in 2020, about eight students applied to go to Taiwan and only three applied to go to China, and in 2021, 17 students went to study in Taiwan, while no one went to China, he said.

Yet despite Taiwan's growing visibility, Corcuff remains concerned about China's influence, arguing that it uses its power to undermine the stability of Western democracies and divide the media and politicians' attitudes toward China.

"Although we have realized that China lies to and manipulates the world, we still do not realize how serious it is," Corcuff said. "We have nourished the monster that eats us."

It is therefor time to take action and make radical decisions, he contended.

"We absolutely need to strengthen our support for Taiwan, which will prevent China from attacking because the stakes are too high," Corcuff said, "I believe an attack on Taiwan will be the beginning of the end for the Chinese Communist Party."

Corcuff emphasized that Taiwan is a crucial upholder of universal values which Western countries advocate, while its geopolitical importance goes far beyond the size of its population and territory.

(By Judy Tseng and Ken Wang)

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