Tuesday, June 13, 2017

....and another one bites the dust: Panama

Because sometimes one spout just isn't enough...

The news washed over Taiwan in the morning: we're losing Panama. Oh noes! Now we only have 20 unimportant countries recognizing the ROC, down all the way from 21. Reports the BBC (from their Latin American office, so slightly more balanced than their E Asian reporters):
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. A few countries maintain ties with Taipei instead of Beijing, and Panama is the latest to switch sides.

In December last year, the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe made a similar move. Now only 20 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

In recent years China has intensified its economic investment into the Central American country - home of the economically vital Panama Canal.
The media will be delighted, no doubt, since it can report ZOMG CHINA IS CLOSING IN and TENSIONZ and TSAI IZ DOOOMMMMEEEDDD and lay it on real thick.

....my favorite of today's many comments was this Twitter comment from Financial Times' Ben Bland:
Panama just dropped Taiwan for China. @FT warned in January that Beijing was eyeing Taiwan's Central American allies
"FT warned in Jan?" Then they were months late (of course). Panama has been rumored to be on the brink for a year, as this AFP piece in the Hong Kong FP from June of last year notes (one of many). This switch was probably inevitable, the world being what it is.

My man Donovan speculated that the switch was about China dangling the prospect of making Panama irrelevant via the fantasy of building a canal through Nicaragua. Reports indicate that China is eyeing investment in the energy and port sectors. China is the third largest user of the canal, according to several reports.

MIA? Uncle Sam. Thought maybe the Yankee Menace might be interested in China expanding its power and influence in Panama, but the current Administration appears to be everything Putin thought it would be.

On Facebook, someone reiterated the Taiwanese position: "We're now 1/21 steps closer to independence". Outsiders see diplomatic links as important, but Taiwan, as the News Lens piece observes, depends on its rich informal and unofficial links to get things done. China has seldom threatened those. It's very unlikely that China will attempt to swallow all of Taiwan's allies, because that would leave Taiwan independent. There will be domestic criticism from the opposition party, and some small psychological effect. Since there is nothing Tsai could have done, and everyone knows it, life will go on as usual. As the China Post notes, many observe that Taiwan can get along without any "allies" so long as it has support of powerful nations.

More importantly, it is not Taiwan that is suffering, but the ROC. One of the props of its existence are the "diplomatic allies". Today it has become that much smaller...

Ironically, today in the Diplomat one of those silly articles came out arguing that Beijing needs to change its path in order to win Taiwanese hearts and minds. Then many complained that such actions as grabbing Panama don't win hearts and minds in Taiwan. The campaign of "niceness" isn't aimed at Taiwan, folks. It is aimed at domestic audiences in China, who do not want war over Taiwan. Beijing needs to be able to convince them it did everything in its power to get Taiwan peacefully. There is only one way Beijing could win hearts and minds here, and that is to give up its claim to Taiwan. Taiwan scolded China for oppressing and threatening it...

DON'T MISS: But if you wish to go placidly amid all the predictable squalling that is occupying the media, by all means feast your eyes on this wonderful collection of 55 black and white images of Taiwan taken in 1896.

ADDED: Ben Bland correctly observes in comments below...
On the question of Taiwan's informal bilateral relationships, China constantly tries to stymie and stifle them as well. Foreign officials receive stern protests from the local Chinese embassy every time they meet representatives from the Taiwan economic and trade offices in their countries. Many will not meet the Taiwanese officials in their offices, only in hotels etc. And the Chinese embassies also threaten commercial entities that work with the Taiwanese foreign ministry officials in too open a fashion. Even supposedly straightforward tasks like getting landing slots for Taiwanese airlines in third countries can be painfully difficult because of Chinese interference.
What I meant really was that so far while China has harassed Taiwan overseas, it hasn't attempted to shut down unofficial relations outright on an us or them basis like it has formal relations.
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11 comments:

Ben Bland said...

Hi Michael - thanks for your reference. Wasn't claiming an FT scoop. Merely flagging our prior reporting.

On the question of Taiwan's informal bilateral relationships, China constantly tries to stymie and stifle them as well. Foreign officials receive stern protests from the local Chinese embassy every time they meet representatives from the Taiwan economic and trade offices in their countries. Many will not meet the Taiwanese officials in their offices, only in hotels etc. And the Chinese embassies also threaten commercial entities that work with the Taiwanese foreign ministry officials in too open a fashion. Even supposedly straightforward tasks like getting landing slots for Taiwanese airlines in third countries can be painfully difficult because of Chinese interference.

Anonymous said...

Diplomatic recognition is related to the existential threat to Taiwan. If the number keep dropping and fast, the impact on Tsai administration should not be underestimated.

Many people are asking Tsai to provide a "solution" to this "problem". Without an effective response, the confidence in DPP and Tsai will drop. Once the confidence problem starts to impact the economy in Taiwan, we will have a real problem.

Both times when ROC was kicked out of UN and diplomatic relationship with U.S. was cut, KMT had extensive control of the state apparatus and media organ to leverage in calming the society. DPP has no such tool.



Raj said...

Anonymous, I doubt most Taiwanese care that much about the number of tiny states that recognise the ROC, not least because there is no solution. I also see no reason why the economy would be hit - that would only happen if the markets thought a Chinese attack on Taiwan was imminent.

Matt Stone said...

Those photos in the Thomas Hahn collection are great.
BTW, if you type "China" or "Chinese" into the search field, a lot of other amazing stuff is there as well (not to mention quite a few vintage Chinese nudes).

Anonymous said...

You are gloating about informal relations. Wait till 2040 when china becomes 2-3 times bigger than US in GDP. China will then start to close down even trade relationships with Taiwan. Taiwan will become isolated like North Korea. Those big powerful nations will kowtow to Beijing for their own trade relationships. China intends to get Taiwan without a fight and it will eventually.

There is no hope left for Taiwan. The natural order of things is being restored. Which is One united Middle kingdom that is on top of the World. Wait for it. Taiwan Special Administrative Region is a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Raj that the Taiwanese have long grown to be indifferent to this kind of "diplomatic" matter.

Tsai will be hit very hard in the coming elections not because of matter like this. Rather, she will be hit by her indifference to her constituents and her hiding from her role as a modern nation's leader.

People are getting very clear picture of her by now: she is a bureaucrat of the long-past Chiang Ching-Kuo (CCK) era. She is old styled and can only accept/trust the bureaucrats of the old CCK era, which fills her cabinet 100%.

Tsai cannot lead a modern Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

You are gloating about informal relations. Wait till 2040 when china becomes 2-3 times bigger than US in GDP. China will then start to close down even trade relationships with Taiwan. Taiwan will become isolated like North Korea. Those big powerful nations will kowtow to Beijing for their own trade relationships. China intends to get Taiwan without a fight and it will eventually.

"Gloating"? LOL

It's interesting to me that so many pro-China types hate Taiwan so much. They want Taiwan annexed precisely because it is free and they hate it for that. The rest is just excuses. It's really fueled by hate.

Sad.

Mike Fagan said...

It's a bit much to predict that China will surpass the U.S. in thirty years time given the immense demographic and other problems that the Chinese suffer from. If anything I think the Chinese might want to preserve Taiwan so that they have somewhere to run to when things go tits up.

roth phallyka said...

Merely flagging our prior reporting.



Goldenslot

channing said...

Hate and jealousy.

Anonymous said...

"It's interesting to me that so many pro-China types hate Taiwan so much. They want Taiwan annexed precisely because it is free and they hate it for that. The rest is just excuses. It's really fueled by hate.

If we want better discourse about China/Taiwan, let's start by having the discussion without the glib 'pro Taiwan/ pro China" false dichotomy. Continually framing the discussion in these oversimplified terms stops any real understanding. The most hatred I've heard in years of following the topic is the visceral hatred towards Chinese tourists coming from this site.