Fri, Jul 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Money diplomacy not the issue

Every time the president visits one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, opposition parties invariably grumble about "money diplomacy." It's as if they are afraid no one will believe they are protecting the taxpayers' money if they aren't accusing the government of going on a spending spree.

If Taipei has had to depend on money diplomacy to maintain relations with its current roster of 28 allies, it is highly unlikely that China could have enticed some of Taiwan's former allies away without spending any money. After all, Beijing has used money as a diplomatic tool far longer than Taipei has -- look at the 1860km-long Tanzania-Zambia Railway that it built between 1968 and 1976.

Opposition parties should know that Taiwan's diplomatic relations belong not just to the ruling party, but rather to the state and the entire people. Taiwan needs visibility on the world stage; it needs to maintain diplomatic relations with an adequate number of countries in order to maintain that visibility. The president therefore has to visiting allies and spend some money overseas.

Politicians who ridicule the nation's allies as "places where not even birds would lay eggs" should not only dismiss any dreams they might have of becoming president but should first apologize to those they have insulted. They are also completely missing the point with their penny-pinching and nit-picking and succeed only in making themselves appear ridiculous.

KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) has suggested that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) three overseas trips have cost NT$15 billion (US$500 million). So what? More importantly, how did she arrive at that figure? The PFP thinks the president should be barred from commenting on domestic affairs while traveling overseas. Hello? Image a president or prime minister on a state visit, with a big piece of tape slapped across his or her mouth. Just think how far a proposal to similarly restrict legislators or political party leaders would get. KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) would have had nothing to complain about on his recent trip to Washington and lawmakers would find their welcome in China a lot less warm. The KMT caucus' proposal to completely eliminate the president's budget for foreign visits is too stupid to even try to comment on.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) has said that no new aid program was initiated during Chen's African tour, which only involved the continuation of existing cooperative programs. What legislators should be monitoring is the effectiveness of such programs and how the budgets are being spent. As DPP Legislator Ke Chien-ming (柯建銘) noted, the proportion of classified budgets in the overall foreign relations budget has dropped from over 20 percent in the past to 18.5 percent today.

Taiwan is moving toward greater transparency in its foreign policy and investment proposals. Opposition lawmakers need to do their homework more carefully, instead of launching inane and unfounded attacks aimed solely at grabbing headlines or political power. It seems as if they are trying to reduce the roster of allies even further, driving friendly nations into China's arms, since they appear willing to stop at nothing to attack the president's reputation and damage the diplomatic relations.

Once again the KMT and PFP have proven that they are the main obstacles to the nation's economic and diplomatic development -- even bigger obstacles than Beijing, with its constant effort to denigrate and intimidate Taiwan.

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