Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The ROC loses another prop: buh-bye El Salvador

These really should be weaponized. No one can resist their power.

Dammit, El Salvador. I had hoped to avoid writing a blogpost today, but then Taipei severed diplomatic relations with that nation this week after its leadership allegedly demanded exorbitant sums to maintain its recognition of the ROC, including massive payments to the ruling party. El Salvador then switched recognition to China. A Taiwan scholar tweeted around:
Recap to what happened today about #China - #ElSalvador - #Taiwan quandary: @MOFA_Taiwan refused to be blackmailed by Salvadorian government asking for exorbitant sums of money to fund 2019 elections + port infrastructure. Salvador’s been pressuring TW during past 2 months
A new thing was signaling of support for Taiwan by Republican Congressmen on Twitter who tweeted indignantly about the switch:
Ted Yoho @RepTedYoho
U.S. + like-minded countries cannot wait much longer to prevent #China ’s reach. China is actively pursuing #Taiwan’s remaining allies through diplomatic + economic coercion. We cannot stand idly by, while China bullies its way into power.

@SenTomCotton: “The Chinese Communist Party should know that every time it bullies a country into severing ties with Taiwan it only strengthens the bonds between the U.S. and the Taiwanese people.” Agreed.
Marco Rubio of Florida threatened El Salvador over the switch. Also new was that Taipei dumped El Salvador before it switched, a good move.

Solidarity commented:
Peeling off an ally after every Tsai trip abroad is one way to undermine the narrative of that trip, too
Jessica Drun posted the thoughts of one of El Savador's opposition politicians in this thread, describing them....
He regrets the decision (interestingly calls "Taiwan" "China Taiwan"), notes distance of El Salvador from community of democracies, calls the move "treasonous," and calls the move the end to a disastrous government. Interesting to see the domestic politics angle in all this.

In the media...

Chris Taylor has an excellent piece (read it!) observing that this marks the end of "dollar diplomacy". Taylor obviously knows his stuff:
The so-called 1992 consensus is subject to competing interpretations, and is widely perceived in Taiwan as an ex-post facto fabrication on the outcome of discussions between representative bodies from China and Taiwan in Hong Kong in 1992.

China takes the consensus as an affirmation of its ‘One China Policy,’ and its position that Taiwan is an indivisible part of it. Tsai, with the backing of the DPP, refuses to acknowledge the consensus.
This is probably the first piece in the international media to use the term "fabrication" in conjunction with the 1992C. Taylor also gets the connection to independence and quotes DPPer Yu Shyi-kun and turncoat Hsu Hsin-liang on the topic:
As former Premier Yu Shyi-kun, leader of a Taiwanese delegation to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, reflected, the loss of small diplomatic allies to China amounts to more domestic budget for Taiwan.

Former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, head of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, which is a private think tank, has echoed such views, arguing that small diplomatic allies impose an unnecessary economic burden on Taiwan. Losing them “is not really important,” he said.
Kudos to Taylor for this excellent reportage...

The international reporting, alas, was too often the usual mix of tropes and ignorance. The Guardian wrote, for example:
The latest diplomatic switch leaves Taiwan further isolated on the international stage. Beijing claims that Taiwan, which operates under its own government, currency, and military, is an inseparable part of China and says it will not maintain ties with any country that has formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Relations between China and Taiwan have reached a low under Tsai, who belongs to the Democratic Progressive party, which advocates independence for the island. Since her election, Beijing has ramped up efforts to poach Taiwan’s allies. Now, just 17 countries recognise Taiwan, after Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic cut ties and recognised Beijing instead earlier this year.
The Guardian did extensively quote Tsai and also Joseph Wu (yay!), but still The Formula there bolded in red tells us only what Beijing thinks, and not what Taiwan thinks. Typical. In the international media, Beijing's claims are almost never interrogated or challenged. The Straits Times ran a very similar quote, with Taiwan also silenced.

Note the bolded sentence in the second paragraph, in which the Guardian tells us that "relations have reached a low", apparently without the intervention of human agency. Relations are low because of Beijing's decisions. Indeed, the Guardian report assigns the blame to Tsai with "under Tsai". The piece is by the Guardian's Beijing reporter, which no doubt accounts for the slant.

Oh, and in coincidental conjunction with this event, a number of people were tweeting around that support for Taiwan independence among Hong Kong's young has risen strongly (survey). Apparently there is something about being ruled by China that just makes people yearn not to be ruled by China.

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said. The Straits Times piece, which is far better than the Guardian piece, has a nice quote from the most excellent Jon Sullivan, who gets it...
"If the ROC is completely unrecognised I believe Beijing's calculation is that it will be easier to delegitimise the government in Taipei and prime demoralised Taiwanese and international society for unification," said Jonathan Sullivan, Director of China Programmes at the University of Nottingham.
Note Sullivan's careful choice of point of view and words. "If the ROC..." -- almost every newspaper article simply says it was "Taiwan" that lost recognition. The problem with that is simple: no nation on earth recognizes Taiwan, they all recognize the Republic of China as the sole and legitimate government of China. The international media either doesn't understand this, is too lazy to explain, or prefers to emphasize Taiwan because that increases the clickbait value of the article. Thus Sullivan's precise use of "ROC" and "government in Taipei" because Sullivan understands that Taiwan has neither lost nor gained anything.

Taiwan cognoscenti understand well that the ROC is a virtual state propped up by thin threads connecting it to reality -- the diplomatic allies, control of Kinmen and Matsu (where the ROC truly resides in the hearts of many of the people), and control of islands in the South China Sea (see J Tkacik's recent excellent piece in TT on Kinmen/Matsu), and its territorial claims in the Senkakus. The SCS islands, the Senkakus claims, and the diplomatic relations are the only places where the ROC truly exercises, in evanescent form, the international powers of a sovereign state.

As Sullivan knows (and is cited on further down in the Straits Times article), many independence supporters view the loss of relations as inevitable and desirable, because each such loss brings the hated colonial ROC government to its own inevitable death, leaving only Taiwan, which will then be independent. That is why Beijing has never taken back Matsu and Kinmen -- because they give Taiwan a tenuous connection to China, and that is why it permits Taiwan to have diplomatic allies. After all, poaching them gives the media the opportunity to write lots of clickbait headlines...

Allies come and go, but Taiwan abides.
Daily Links:
REF: I've placed President Tsai's statement on termination of relations with El Salvador below the READ MORE link...

President Tsai's statement on termination of diplomatic relations with El Salvador

At noon on August 21, President Tsai Ing-wen issued a major statement on the termination of diplomatic relations with El Salvador. A translation of the president's remarks follows:

"As a member of the international community, Taiwan is entitled to its place in the world, and engage with the world. Twenty-three million Taiwanese, like people in other nations, have the right to equality, freedom, independent sovereignty, and dignity. This is our position, and an axiomatic truth.

"Just now, we terminated diplomatic relations with El Salvador. We have known about this situation for some time. During this period, we have done everything possible and undertaken extensive diplomatic efforts. We have also worked with our international allies, hoping to prevent El Salvador from becoming a battlefield in a cross-strait diplomatic war. Regrettably, China's government has been unrelenting and repeatedly exerted pressure, using the severance of diplomatic relations with El Salvador to crush the will of the Taiwanese people to embrace the world.

"The severance of diplomatic ties is not an isolated incident. These are all part of a series of diplomatic and military acts of coercion. That includes sending military aircraft to encircle Taiwan, forcing international airlines to change their designation for Taiwan, depriving Taichung City of its right to host the East Asian Youth Games, and the recent 85°C café incident. China has never loosened its grip. Its suppression has only become all-pervasive.

"Today's China is not only a threat to cross-strait peace. China's actions around the world—whether interfering in other countries' internal affairs, or undermining the international market order—have already caused serious global instability. We must remind the international community once again that this is not just Taiwan's problem. The situation is urgent and leaves no room for appeasement!

"The facts make it clear that cross-strait issues no longer involve just the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. They are also regional issues. Throughout Asia, China's ambition is to challenge, and even replace the international order led by traditional powers. With increasingly complex trade disputes looming, China is now increasing pressure on Taiwan to underscore its regional influence and power. The force of China's offensive against Taiwan sovereignty is unprecedented.

"I want to tell everyone that China's demands and actions have crossed the bottom line for all of Taiwan's major political parties. Now is not the time to compare cross-strait policies. Now is the time to come together as one, and join forces to defend the shared bottom line of our national sovereignty.

"Undermining our conduct of diplomatic relations in the name of the Republic of China (Taiwan) violates that bottom line. Pressuring our diplomatic allies to sever ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) encroaches on our sovereignty.

"The existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is the status quo. It is the greatest common denominator, and the foundation of unity among Taiwan's people. Our unity sends a clear message to China, so they won't misjudge the bottom line of Taiwan's people, or indulge in wishful thinking that they can sow discord between different political parties and political figures.

"Over the past two years, the people of Taiwan have proven to the world that threats will not force Taiwanese to give up freedom and democracy, or abandon our determination to contribute to the international community. In the future, we will continue to appeal to like-minded countries to join us in combatting China's international conduct, which is spinning out of control. We will also call on our diplomatic allies to cherish their long-standing friendship with the Republic of China (Taiwan), and our contributions to their substantive development.

"I want to emphasize again that the more we are suppressed, the more we must unite! The more we are suppressed, the more we must go out into the world! At the airport last night, I told everyone that Taiwan will not bow to pressure. Pressure will only make us stronger and more unified, and strengthen our determination to engage with the world. We have never succumbed to pressure in the past, and now, we will overcome any and all difficulties because we are united as one."

Also attending the press conference were Vice President Chen Chien-jen, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), Secretary-General to the President Chen Chu (陳菊), National Security Council Secretary-General David T. Lee (李大維), Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Chen Ming-Tong (陳明通).

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Anonymous said...

"Letterman and Carson"?! You've been out of the US for too long, dude...

Rebecca said...

I watched the pilot of the political satire show - I saw a lot of Jon Stewart influence there, and (although my Chinese isn't good enough to understand everything) I thought he did a great job.