Taiwan will remain an important player in Asia and will not be marginalized even if China further bolsters ties with other countries in the region, so long as the nation's economic prosperity and science and technology development continues, a Hong Kong-based academic said Saturday.
David Zweig, director of the Center on China and Transnational Relations of the Technology University of Hong Kong, made the comments in a telephone interview with the Central News Agency.
Zweig noted that China was previously considered by most countries in Asia as a threat. However, in recent years, particularly after the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos last month, China has demonstrated the "soft" side of its diplomacy, he added.
China has shown that it is willing to engage in regional affairs, which has in turn spurred the ASEAN members' interest in further exploring the huge Chinese market, he continued.
Disagreeing with the view of some that China is aiming to isolate Taiwan by bolstering its ties with ASEAN, Zweig said that China's expanding ties with ASEAN and the so-called Taiwan issue are two separate matters. China is primarily aiming at expanding its economic activity in the ASEAN markets, he added.
China has also tried to demonstrate its "peace-loving" side by seeking peaceful solutions to controversial issues in the region, such as the question of who has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (also called the Spratlys). For example, Zweig said, China and the Philippines have decided recently to jointly tap crude oil in the Nansha Islands area.
Zweig said he does think that China's increasing engagement with ASEAN is weakening the US' relative influence in Asia.
Although Taiwan is not recognized by most of the Asian countries politically, it remains an important player in Asia's economic arena, Zweig said, adding that Taiwan is still seen actively taking part in the markets of China, Japan and ASEAN member nations.
Nevertheless, another Hong Kong-based "China hand" disagreed with Zweig's comments regarding Taiwan.
Dixon Sing (成名), an associate professor with the Public and Social Department of Hong Kong's City University, said that Taiwan will inevitably be isolated in the process of China strengthening its interactions with ASEAN members and other countries around Asia.
China is poised to take a leading role in Asia with its go-go economic development and soaring status in the region, Sing claimed.
Seconding Sing's opinions, Qiang Jiang (