Saturday, June 17, 2017

On the Foreign Front....

The little roads through these hills are gorgeous.

...我覺得巴拿馬其實是在幫台灣 ("I feel Panama is actually helping Taiwan")-- a Taiwanese friend

On Twitter, Aaron Wytze (@aaronwytze ) has been reporting that the Chinese press is saying night markets in Taiwan are collapsing due to the lack of Chinese tourists. That's probably why the biggest night market in northern Taiwan is opening this week...

Readers may recall that the Nigerian government had ordered the Taiwan office there to move out of Lagos. Taiwan News reported this week that the Taiwan government had retaliated:
Later Wednesday afternoon, the government said its office in the Nigerian capital Abuja had ceased to function and the chief representative had returned to the country. The new office, in the country’s most populous city of Lagos, would bear the name “Taipei Trade Office.”

Taiwan vowed equal treatment and struck back by demanding Nigeria move its office on the island out of Taipei City, reports said.
This kind of childish tit-for-tat behavior doesn't help Taiwan. We also withdrew the scholarships from the students from Panama currently studying in Taiwan's universities, another childish move. Those students were often picked for social or political reasons, and we could have continued to foster relationships. When life gives you the chance to be magnanimous, you should be. MOFA needs to stop pretending that the ROC is a Great Power.

The news also broke with week, as the Taiwan News piece notes, that China was pressuring several countries to change the name of Taiwan offices abroad. Note that while the names may change, the offices will continue to function.

In case the sturm und drang has you worried, a sharp observer pointed out in an email conversation that there has actually be an increase in informal exchanges with the major democracies and major economies. This sort of thing doesn't get reported in the media, but it helps balance the unremitting pettiness of China.

Meanwhile many moves on the US front this week. China's grab of Panama, which had been in the making since 2009 when Panama first asked, was aimed also at the US, to see what the US would do about the burgeoning influence of China in its backyard. Not much, is the answer. Many comments on that below....

Sec of State Rex Tillerson spoke in response to questioning from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Well I think, Congressman, you’ve summarized it quite well in terms of the situation as we see it today, between China and Taiwan. As you know, the China-U.S. relationship has been defined for the past 50 [sic] years by our ‘one China’ policy, and our agreement around [the] ‘one China’ policy. They have their interpretation of what that means, and we have ours, and we’ve agreed that we’d accommodate each other’s interpretation. But it has led to 50 years of stability in the region, it has prevented conflict, it has allowed for this economic growth that has gone on—much of which we have benefitted from.

As we began our dialogue with Chinese leadership with this new administration, as you know there was some questioning of our commitment to ‘one China’ early on. The President has reaffirmed that we are committed to the ‘one China’ policy. We are also completely committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and fulfilling all of our commitments to them under that Act.
This is reassuring noise, at least. The House subcommittee also unanimously passed the Taiwan Travel Act which is supposed to lift travel restrictions and encourage US officials to visit Taiwan. Lets see if it makes it through Congress into law.

Martin Longman argues in the Washington Monthly that failed US leadership is isolating Taiwan. There's not much you can say except "Amen" and add that this failure extends all the way back to the Bush Administration's shift on Taiwan. The Trump Administration is merely stumbling along after the adults.

At AEI Michael Mazza, a longtime supporter of The Beautiful Island, points out that there is lots the US can do to push back on China for its pressure on Taiwan....
Washington has numerous options for doing so, any of which would signal that the United States does not look kindly upon unilateral changes to the cross-Strait status quo. Options include the following:
  • Announce a new, robust arms sales package for Taiwan;
  • Disinvite the PLA Navy from participating in RIMPAC 2018;
  • Invite the Taiwan Navy to participate in RIMPAC 2018;
  • Arrange a phone call between President Trump and President Tsai Ing-wen;
  • Eliminate limitations on senior Taiwanese officials’ ability to visit Washington and meet with their counterparts;
  • Welcome Taiwan Navy port visits at US Navy bases.
I could go on. There are numerous ways the United States can signal its displeasure to China and stand up for its democratic partner in Taiwan. The Panama switch is not, in and of itself, earth shattering; the consequences for Taiwan of this one act are limited. But failure to respond now opens the door to greater Chinese pressure down the road.
Yep. This was a test. The Trump Administration needs to do more than just make noise.

In the Taipei Times Ben Goren argues that Taiwan can play the long game, and proposes:
One way would be for Taiwan to remodel relations with existing allies by actually recognizing a “one China” principle whereby the ROC would be removed from all diplomatic exchanges and replaced with simply the “territory of Taiwan.” This would allow allied nations interested in diplomatic relations with the PRC to stand by a “one China” principle while still retaining a full embassy and relations with Taiwan.
At Heritage Dean Cheng and Walter Lohman also observe that Washington is being tested:
It is important, given the extent of U.S.–Chinese interactions on other issues, such as North Korea and burgeoning trade frictions, that Washington make clear to Beijing that its commitment to Taipei is not a political bargaining chip. Beijing should not be misled into thinking that by cooperating in one area (often through short-term gestures), it will realize major policy shifts and concessions in others. Such a move would not only grant China massive gains, it would devastate American credibility with allies such as Japan and South Korea, who would logically wonder if our commitments to them also come with expiration dates.
Also last week there was a Congressional hearing on "renewing assurances" to Taiwan. The energy at the lower levels and outside the government is clearly there. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has yet to fill many major posts, and appears to be AWOL.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

No comments: