Thursday, August 07, 2008

Diplomacy Lunacy

Ma Ying-jeou continues to reduce the island's visibility. First, as many of you are aware, his upcoming trip with a transit through the US will be done as quietly as possible. No meeting cheering crowds of Taiwanese, no visits to ballgames with prominent congress critters like Chen Shui-bian did. In fact, the Ma team apparently instructed the press not to report on the transit through the US, but later clarified and said that they meant there wouldn't be anything to report.

One of the Chen Administration's diplomatic successes was maintaining its relations with smaller Pacific Islands. But as the Taipei Times reports, Ma is downgrading those as well:

Ma announced last night during a state banquet held for Nauruan President Marcus Stephen that the third Taiwan-South Pacific Allies leaders’ summit will be canceled.

Citing “time constraints,” Ma said the event, scheduled to take place in Kaohsiung this year, will be held in the Solomon Islands next year.

The summit, established by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), was first held in Palau in 2006.

When Ma came in he announced that the "dollar diplomacy" game in the South Pacific was over, and it looks like he is sticking to that. That same article announced Taiwan's new "flexibility" on the WHO and WHA application:

Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po newspaper reported that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Chairman Wang Yi (王毅) had said that although China would continue to block Taiwan’s applications to the WHO, it would look into setting up an international network that would be a “new framework” independent of the WHO to include Taiwan in information on disease outbreaks.

Many commentators and pundits argued that China should/would give Taiwan more international space in return for a "conciliatory" attitude from Taiwan. Wrong again, guys. Nor does the public care: while everyone I talk to expresses dissatisfaction with the KMT's domestic policies, few spontaneously raise the issue of Taiwan's foreign relations. Taiwan News commented cogently on Ma's striking lack of diplomatic derring-do (emphasis mine):

During a dinner with former foreign ministers Sunday evening at the Taipei Guest House and a seminar with senior diplomatic officials held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Monday, Ma discussed at length his concept of "viable diplomacy" or, more precisely, a "modus vivendi" diplomacy, a term which is a Latin phrase for a "a mode of living " arranged between arrangement between two parties to coexist despite deep differences.

For Ma, the phrase clearly refers to his government's strategy of improving relations with the authoritarian People's Republic of China and building his government's external relations on the platform of "diplomatic truce" and "reconciliation" with the Chinese Communist Party regime.

Under this roof, Ma elaborated "overall goals" such as the preservation of existing diplomatic partnerships, the rebuilding of "trust" with the United States, Japan and other informal partners by promising not to be a "trouble-maker" and cultivating "surprise free" ties, refraining from "foreign assistance" diplomacy and avoiding "cutthroat competition" with the PRC over diplomatic allies.

In fact, none of these priorities are proper "goals" but only tactics or methods to achieve diplomatic goals. Indeed, the tone of Ma's "goals" points not to any autonomous notion of diplomacy to uphold the interests of Taiwan's 23 million people but the adoption of a mentality of habitual self-censorship and self-abnegation.

Moreover, Ma's exposition offered no analysis whatsoever of the goals and priorities of the other actors affecting Taiwan's diplomacy, such as the United States, Japan, our 23 official diplomatic allies and, incredibly, the PRC itself.

Even though Ma's notion of "a mode of living" diplomacy implicitly elevates the cross-strait relationship over all other external ties, Ma failed to take account of the PRC's open adoption of a diplomatic strategy aimed at isolating Taiwan internationally and even pressing for Taiwan's annexation, as mandated by Beijing's March 2005 "Anti-Secession Law."

Moreover, even though Ma stated that "diplomatic truce and reconciliation" means that "we do not need to engage in meaningless cutthroat fighting overseas" over diplomatic allies, senior PRC diplomats from Foreign Minister Yang Jie-chi down declare that Beijing will never abandon its "one China principle" which claims Taiwan as part of the PRC and are persisting without any signs of relent or "taking a breath" numerous "cutthroat struggles" to denigrate or even eliminate Taiwan's participation in governmental and non-governmental international organizations.

Moreover, information from U.S. "track two" exercises indicate that the PRC diplomatic establishment rejects the possibility of substantive oncessions that would, for example, allow Taiwan a truly autonomous, dignified and meaningful method of participation in major sovereignty-based international organizations, such as the World Health Organization.

Bluntly put, China's expansion, in the 'death by a thousand cuts' mode, continues apace. As this Asia Times article points out, Taiwan is not the only victim:

And yet, history and national identity are notorious for trumping raw economic interests in Asia. Consider the most fundamental of inter-state relations: a shared border. China and India's has been under dispute for nearly a century, and China has been testing New Delhi this year with a wave of abrupt but underreported incursions into Indian territory. Beijing still claims tens of thousands of square miles of Indian territory in the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the subject of a 1962 border war.

China's incursions, in some ways routine by now, have become more numerous (anywhere between 60 and several hundred) and brazen (one crossing having driven a kilometer into Indian territory) in the past six months - an unusual provocation, given China's sensitivity to world opinion ahead of the August Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Were the border incursions an isolated incident, they would likely be swallowed by the mounting ties that bind China and India. But isolated they are not, and in 2006 a warning by China's ambassador to India put in question the warmth generated by a dozen of rehearsed summits: "[T]he whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory ... we are claiming all of that. That is our position." The point was not lost on the 1.1 million Indians living in a state the size of Maine. Indian diplomats from the state have even been denied visas by Beijing, which reminds them documentation is not required to travel their own country.

The reason China cannot be permitted to have Taiwan is right there: because it will only encourage them to discover that more of their neighbors' lands are the sacred territory of China, Chinese for every minute of the last 5,000 years.....


Anonymous said...

So Ma has ended the experiment with dollar diplomacy. Makes sense to me. Total waste of money. Nor is it a way to achieve sovereignty. That goal is best achieved by assertion. The fact that none of the major players support it doesn't make it less of a goal. Wanting it is the most important thing. The real question is, 'does Taiwan want it?'.

Anonymous said...

Hey MIchael, did you see the story picked up by Liberty Times about Prof. June Teufel Dryer being asked for for a visa to enter "Chinese Taipei"?

Interview video:

Anonymous said...

We are Taiwanese Aborigines, we are citizens of the Republic of China. We are Taiwanese, but we are not Chinese. And we are not Chinese minorities,” Tibusungu said yesterday.

His statement came in response to recent reports that Chinese officials have called members of the Aboriginal performing team organized by Chin “minority peoples from Taiwan.”

“The Beijing Olympics is the dream of all Chinese people in the past hundred years. The cultural performance organized by Chin is the best proof that our fellow countrymen in Taiwan pay a lot of attention and fully support the Beijing Games,” China’s State Ethnic Affairs Council Chairman Yang Jing (楊晶) was quoted by the state-owned Xinhua news agency as saying. “I believe that the performance by minority groups from Taiwan will make the opening ceremony so much more eye-catching.”

“We are Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, the first residents of Taiwan. We’re not ‘minorities,’” Aboriginal pastor Sudu Tada said. “We hereby urge Chin to lodge a protest with the Chinese government and media, and ask them to make corrections.”