Thursday, February 05, 2009

Diplomatic Truce = Diplomatic Withdrawal

The new President has touted his idea of "diplomatic truce" with China, in which each side agrees that neither will snag the other's "allies." Thus, when opportunity knocks, Ma refuses to do anything....
Taiwan will not consider retaking Malawi as a diplomatic ally, despite rumors of the African country’s discontent with Beijing, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday after local media reported that Lilongwe regretted abandoning Taiwan in December 2007.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said that under the “diplomatic truce” with Beijing, Taipei would not take back a former ally because such a move could sabotage recent cross-strait rapprochement and rekindle the traditional hostility on the diplomatic front.

“If someone breaks up with you, but later wants to get back with you because he got dumped, would you take him back?” said the official, adding that if Taiwan were to take back Malawi, Beijing would not hesitate to lure more of Taipei’s remaining 23 allies.

Allies including Paraguay, Panama and Guatemala had been rumored to be on the verge of switching recognition prior to the cross-strait detente, but Beijing’s reluctance had undermined their desire, he said.

Taipei cut ties with Malawi after 42 years of friendship in December 2007 after it was confirmed that Lilongwe had forged ties with Beijing. The break-up, leaving Taiwan with 23 allies, was a shock to the ministry, which said it had not seen it coming.

Beijing reportedly offered a US$6 billion financial package among other economic incentives in exchange for recognition by Lilongwe.

The Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) reported yesterday that Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was unhappy with Beijing because of its broken promises, a mistake he feared would hurt his chances for re-election.
Yet, there was much criticism of Chen's foreign policy because he supposedly "lost" allies. Yet our "diplomatic truce" has gained us nothing from China -- no more international space, no great participation in international bodies, and no greater recognition from the world.

It should also be noted that if Ma were to take a shot at Malawi, China would start bleating about "tensions" and foreign observers would complain that Ma was "altering the status quo" and maybe even "provoking China." Ma's "diplomatic truce" thus also redefines a status quo in which Taiwan is completely passive, and in which every Chinese success does not affect the status quo, but any Taiwanese action away from China violates it.


Thomas said...

I have to say that I am torn on this one. On the one hand, Ma has a point. While I don't think a real diplomatic truce exists, the fact is that Beijing probably has put some pressure on Paraguay and Guatemala to keep them in Taiwan's fold, despite Taiwan's recent aid payment to the former. Beijing probably feels it loses nothing by doing this because it can always put pressure on them later with an even larger market behind it to boot.

Ma might pick up Malawi this time, but it probably wouldn't be long until Taiwanlost one or the other of the Latin American countries, or some other ally. For the time being, the "truce" in terms of the allies is not a net negative for Taiwan either. It takes the pressure off, although Beijing can end it at its will.

Moreover, you have to wonder something when it comes to some of these poorer African countries. Is Malawi really lamenting the loss of a good ally, or is the country jockying for more aid money?

I blame Ma much more for his insistance on calling Taiwan an "area" in the international community, his refusal to recognise the identity of locals, and his acceptance of one-China without the interpretations, which he has done by not countering Hu's six-point speech. Things like that do a lot more damage to Taiwan than refusing to take back Malawi.

Thomas said...

Although, on second thought, it probably was unwise to use demeaning language (likening Malawi to an adulturer) to describe Malawi's switch to China. They could have come up with a more open-ended comment so that, at a future date, if the "truce" were evidently no longer observed, Taiwan could at least gain more traction with Malawi. I guess this, once again, shows that Ma and the KMT are putting all of their eggs in China's basket.

Anonymous said...

Well, as you said, the policy itself is completely idiotic. On the other hand, as long as the KMT claims to pursue this policy ignoring Malawi makes perfect sense.

Dixteel said...

I agree with Thomas. It really looks like a tough call on this one.

I think the cause for this tough call is that DPP's foreign policy wasn't that much superior neither. I think what DPP did mostly during their 8 years was continuing whatever KMT was doing. There were small changes here and there, but overall there was no big changes, and no changes in term of strategy.

I personally have no clue what Taiwan's foreign policy strategy should be. But I know DPP's, KMT's, and Ma's strategy are all not good enough.

I think in this area the DPP should put more effort in coming up with a comprehensive plans and new strategy, both for their election purpose, and for the success of Taiwan.

TicoExpat said...

Michael, really, Taiwan is not missing anything with these fair weather friends -or fiends?

having more or less allies matters n terms of keeping the dream alive, but truth be told, when Taiwan supports dictatorships or engages in illegal acts and/or corrupt practices for the sake of "not breaking relationships"... it is simply not worth it.

It is not only hummilliating to accept these "allies" back, but counterproductive.

Moral ground is the only defense we've got.

Furthermore, the so-called truce, as long as it works, cuts both ways: China is not helping its allies as much and they can see the whole scope.

As to Ma, his policies overall have pushed us closer to teh edge than ever before, and his treatmnent of the alies is small compared to other actions that truly ensured an hastened and unprepared assimilation by China.

Marc said...

China has been an unreliable diplomatic partner throughout Africa. It comes in promising the moon, then overpopulating the place with Chinese workers, and taking away jobs and valuable resources from each region. China brings in its own people, and underpays the locals they do hire. Clealry, many Africans and others in parts of the developing world regret their partnership with them.

As for Malawi, didn't the minister of the treasury abscond with money given by Taiwan a year or two back? Who needs friends like that?

Michael Turton said...

Well, you can make a case either way, you guys are totally right. But for me the problem is that Malawi is not being considered on its merits -- it is simply dismissed as a possibility. Basically, Ma has given up the idea of an independent foreign policy.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a former resident of Malawi that also paid a visit to Malawi last December, I am not sure how the "Liberty Times" got hold of the news (or rumour) that Malawi regrets the switching of ties.

As far as I know, the promised aid projects from China have not been completed, i.e. roadworks, stadium complex, parliament building, etc., thus making the re-election hopes for the incumbent president of Malawi seem less rosy. Part of the incumbent's campaign rests on these works as evidenced by the placards advertising "his" work all over the country.

The Malawians do not seem to regret having the Chinese construct and foot the bill of many developmental projects throughout their land. However, they are a little dismayed that the results of Chinese aid promises have yet to meet up to their expectations of China as miracle workers. There are many obstacles to overcome in completing construction projects on time in Malawi due to the poor infrastructure and the rainy season that renders virtually all construction work to be postponed. Projects that were abandoned by Taiwan, such as the agricultural mission and the medical mission, were also not taken up by the Chinese as was expected.

Another factor is that Taiwan was better at "giving face" to Malawi in terms of publicity of the aid given to Malawi local media, and organizing media events. The Taiwanese are simply more media savvy in this respect.

Further, the local media of Malawi is similar to the nature of Taiwan's media, making more out of hearsay into news fact. This is especially true in the run-up to elections this year with all political parties unleashing smear campaigns.

Given that there is an election coming up, it is also likely that they are missing the campaign funding that Taiwan used to "assist" politicians to safeguard diplomatic ties. With China in the fold, assistance in campaign funding is most likely affected.

The link provided below is the same "Taipei Times" article reposted on a Malawi News site with some discussions by Malawians on the matter.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am torn on this one. On the one hand, Ma has a point. While I don't think a real diplomatic truce exists, the fact is that Beijing probably has put some pressure on Paraguay and Guatemala to keep them in Taiwan's fold, despite Taiwan's recent aid payment to the former. Beijing probably feels it loses nothing by doing this because it can always put pressure on them later with an even larger market behind it to boot.--

WEll if MA wanted to make good politics he would gived a shit about chinese feeelings and started to use a famous chinese peolitics. its called "Backdoor enter". worked very well for Britons in opium war and for chinese in a vietnam war/korean war.
so what a point of Mas truce shit? only one: Keep taiwanese inside of chinese influence and indepence down.