Premier Zhu Rongji is attending a summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Copenhagen and the parallel European Union-China summit on what is likely to be his last visit to Europe before he steps down next spring. He is also paying official visits to Austria, Denmark and France. Ironically, Mr Zhu began his goodwill tour barely 10 days after the National People's Congress issued a harsh statement denouncing a report by the European Parliament, which Beijing felt supported a Taiwan independence line. The European Parliament report on Asia included nine articles relating to Taiwan. Among other things, it invoked a 'basic right of free travel' and called on European countries to grant visas to top Taiwan officials, including the president, so that they can make 'private visits to the European Union'. The report, which is non-binding, also called for the resumption of cross-strait dialogue and urged Beijing to withdraw missiles along the Chinese coast aimed at Taiwan. It called Taiwan a 'country' and recommended that the EU negotiate a free-trade agreement with Taiwan, something that Taiwan covets. It also recommended that Taiwan be allowed to take part in the Asia-Europe Meeting. The European parliament called on the EU to set up a representative office in Taiwan, something the EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten, reportedly also favours. Five days later, Beijing fired back. On September 9, the foreign affairs committee of the National People's Congress - the Chinese counterpart to the European Parliament - issued a statement, saying: 'Regrettably, the European Parliament report took an extremely erroneous position on critical issues like Taiwan and human rights. 'The report named Taiwan a country, advocated support for its participation in World Health Organisation and to involve Taiwan in the Asia-Europe Meeting.' The report also called on EU states 'to issue travel visas to Chen Shui-bian and other high-ranking officials from Taiwan'. The NPC said: 'The European Parliament's above-mentioned acts seriously violated the EU's solemn commitment to a one-China policy and formed interference in China's internal affairs.' No doubt, China has right on its side. It is difficult to reconcile the report's Taiwan recommendations with the EU's stated 'one-China' policy. And Taiwan, which is not recognised by the international community as a sovereign state, is not qualified to join bodies such as the Asia-Europe Meeting and the World Health Organisation, which require states to be members. The trouble is that China puts too much emphasis on its rights, and on Taiwan's lack of rights. Although China claims that the 23 million people of Taiwan are its compatriots, its statement contains no hint of sympathy or support for their welfare. The Chinese voice heard by Taiwan and the world sounds very much like that of a bully, not that of someone who is solicitous about the welfare of compatriots. Since China claims that the United Nations in 1971 gave it the task of representing the 23 million people of Taiwan in addition to the 1.3 billion people on the mainland, one needs to know just how well Beijing has discharged its obligation to Taiwan in the past 51 years. Do China's UN payments reflect Taiwan's gross domestic product as well? If not, it would appear that China is tacitly admitting that it is incapable of representing Taiwan. And if China is incapable of looking after Taiwan's needs, then it seems strange that it should do everything possible to see to it that no other party will be allowed to look after Taiwan's needs. China should reverse its position. If Taiwan can join an international organisation, China should help it join. If the rules are such that Taiwan cannot join an organisation, China should consider lobbying to change the rules so as to allow non-states to qualify for membership. That way, Beijing would win the goodwill of the people of Taiwan, something that Beijing badly wants. It has just been going about it the wrong way. Isolating Taiwan internationally is not going to win Beijing friends there. A display of genuine concern for Taiwan would. For example, the European Parliament, in urging that Taiwan be allowed to join the World Health Organisation, cites the need to combat the Aids virus. While China is keeping Taiwan out of WHO, what, if anything, is it doing to help the people of Taiwan counter health threats, such as Aids? If Beijing is taking care of Taiwan's needs, it may be able to occupy the moral high ground and say that no other country should interfere. But if Beijing is not doing anything to help Taiwan, then its legalistic arguments may sound less persuasive. And if Beijing is not looking after Taiwan's welfare, it is difficult for it to argue that no one else should look after Taiwan's welfare because it would be interference in China's domestic affairs.