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Award-Winning Taiwanese Baker Claims That Taiwan Is Part Of China In Attempt To Appease Beijing

At around 1 p.m. on December 11 the award-winning Taiwanese baker Wu Pao-ch'un (吳寶春) held a press conference in front of his store in Kao-hsiung, in southern Taiwan. Next to him stood Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), mayor-elect of the city. Surrounded by journalists, the two men explained why Wu's statements about Taiwan being part of China are no big deal.

Han Kuo-yu praised "Master Wu", calling him an artist and a "glory of Taiwan". He then argued that it is wrong to politicize business.

"Master Wu is like an artist," Han said. "Because he just bakes bread. He doesn't understand politics ... Simple business people don't deal with politics, they develop their business. I hope that the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait [Taiwan and mainland China] will wish him well. He has faced pressure, but I hope that the Taiwanese people will back him, fully support him. It's not easy to win an international award. Whether he opens a store in China or in the rest of the world, he is exporting Taiwanese bread. I once again urge the people of Taiwan to support Master Wu."

Wu Pao-ch'un, too, argued that people should set aside politics. "I am a professional baker. The world of bread-making is very simple. I like it, and I enjoy making friends with everyone thanks to my job as a baker. I feel honoured that many young people start this career because of me, and I have a responsibility towards the young generation to expand our market."

Wu Taiwanese pastry chef Wu Pao-chun won the title of Master Baker in the bread category of the 2010 Bakery World Cup in Paris Wednesday.

The press conference was in many ways remarkable.

Only a day earlier Wu Pao-ch'un had caused an uproar in Taiwan after he had released a statement supporting Beijing's "one-China principle". On his Facebook page he wrote:

"I am Wu Pao-ch'un, a baker born in China's Taiwan. Taiwan is the land where I grew up. I am proud of being Chinese. I resolutely support the principle that 'the two sides of the Strait are one family' [兩岸一家親] ... I endorse the '1992 consensus."

Wu denied rumours that he had said: "I wouldn't go to mainland [China] even if I was starving!". The rumours were circulated by Chinese netizens on December 7, the day his first bakery in Shanghai opened. He apologized for the "misunderstanding". 

In 2016 Wu had already been criticized for saying during an interview with the newspaper Mingpao that "although the Chinese market has 1.3 billion people, the world has 7 billion people," adding that he wouldn't "focus only on China." Wu was soon branded by some Chinese nationalists a "Taiwan separatist". 

Beijing has repeatedly made clear that businesses that wish to operate in mainland China must abide by the "one-China principle". Last August Taiwan's 85C Bakery Cafe was forced to apologize and publicly state its support for the "1992 consensus" after an employee in its Los Angeles store gave Taiwanese President Ts'ai Ing-wen a gift

On November 24 Han Kuo-yu of the Guomindang (Chinese Nationalist Party) was elected mayor of Kao-hsiung, which for two decades had been a stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP has a Taiwan-centric platform that is hostile to China. The Guomindang, by contrast, endorses the "1992 consensus". 

Although Beijing has vowed to take Taiwan by force if peaceful options are exhausted, many Taiwanese businesses are lured by the lucrative Chinese market. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) carefully cultivates relations with Taiwanese entrepreneurs. 

From December 3 to 5 China held an annual "summit for entrepreneurs across the Taiwan Strait" in Xiamen, Fujian Province. During the conference, "deals worth 10.3 billion yuan (about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars) were signed.

Han Kuo-yu's public appearance alongside Wu Pao-ch'un seems to signal a return to the policy of putting money above politics. 

The idea that business with China may be apolitical is disingenuous, to say the least. For the Communist regime, markets are means to achieve political objectives. The cross-strait economic summit is yet another proof of it.

According to Chinese state-run media, entrepreneurs at the conference "called on cross-Strait compatriots to work together to uphold the 1992 Consensus embodying the one-China principle and resolutely oppose and curb 'Taiwan independence'", as well as to "contribute to the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation."

Economic interests thus become vehicles to spread the Communist regime's message of nationalism and unification under the leadership of Xi Jinping. 

Taiwanese President Ts'ai Ing-wen responded to the Wu controversy by urging China to remove political prerequisites from cross-strait exchanges. "All Taiwanese know what is going on and that it is political suppression, which will neither be accepted by the people of the nation nor the world,” she said.

Wu Pao-Ch'un was born into a poor family in Taiwan's P'ing-tung County and chose to become a baker so that he could support himself. He first learnt traditional Taiwanese recipes like pineapple pastries, spring onion buns and pork floss breads. Later he apprenticed with bakers who introduced him to European-style bread. 

In 2008 he won the second prize at the prestigious Coupe Louis Lesaffre in Paris for his Taiwan Longan with Red Wine Bread. In 2010 he won the title of Master Baker. That year he opened his first store in Kao-hsiung, followed by bakeries in T'ai-chung and Taipei.  


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