The curtain fell on this year's APEC summit on Oct. 21. I was the only legislator among the consultants in Taiwan's delegation. In the past, all political parties sent representatives, but the situation was different this time. With next year's presidential election drawing near, the pan-blue camp decided to boycott this two-day meeting. Both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) have decided not to send their lawmakers on President Chen Shui-bian's (
It is not right for them to politicize diplomatic affairs in sole consideration of their partisan positions while ignoring the nation's overall interests. It is deplorable indeed.
As the host of this year's APEC meeting, Thailand made an all-out effort to mobilize its citizens. Traffic and open-air activities in Bangkok were under strict control; students and public servants were ordered to take days off; the streets that APEC representatives would pass through were cleaned and spruced up; stray dogs disappeared; some refugees from Myanmar and Cambodia were repatriated; and demonstrations by human rights activists were prohibited.
Thailand's disrespect for human rights has aroused much controversy. For example, the Thai government has arrested and killed drug dealers and the "dark forces" with an iron fist, turned a blind eye to the Myanmar military regime's suppression of its people, and failed to make efforts to push for the release of Myanmar's opposition leader and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. All this has stirred up much criticism from international human rights advocates.
Since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra took power, Thailand has clocked up impressive economic achievements. Shinawatra has also demonstrated his ambition to become the future leader of Southeast Asia. As Indonesia is suffering political and economic doldrums and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is soon to retire, Thailand is indeed outshining its Southeast Asian neighbors. With the US and China making efforts to draw him to their side, Thaksin stands a good chance of becoming the top leader among Southeast Asian countries.
Thailand is highly valued by China. Not only did Chinese President Hu Jintao (
Did China suppress Taiwan at this year's APEC summit? The impression I got from the con-
versations I had with representatives from different countries in Bangkok is: China continuously engaged in petty maneuvers. The fact that Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (
Because Beijing expressed its "concern," the host nation made a seating arrangement different from the past and deliberately separated Lee's seat from that of Bush. From this, one can see China's "ability." Also, Taiwan held bilateral talks with many countries but China, contrary to its past practice, refused Taiwan's offer to hold talks.
With the nation's presidential election looming, Beijing refuses to interact with Chen's administration for fear of boosting its legitimacy. This seems to prove what Chen told The Washington Post -- that Beijing was giving clandestine assistance to pan-blue parties. In 1996 and 2000, Beijing actively intervened in the nation's two presidential elections. Some say that Beijing has learned its lesson from its past failures. But old habits die hard. Although this time Beijing has chosen to give Taiwan the cold shoulder treatment, it still will not refrain from intervention.
We have seen Beijing's behind-the-scenes manipulation at the APEC summit. It won't be a surprise if China launches military exercises in the Taiwan Strait in the future, as was reported by foreign news agencies. Beijing indeed does not want a party which emphasizes the independent status of Taiwan to rule the nation. It certainly wants the restoration of the party (or parties) that advocates "one China."
Although Thailand has cooperated with Beijing in many ways and developed closer relations with Beijing, it also regards cooperation with Taiwan as profitable, especially in economics and technology. Taiwanese businesspeople have invested more than US$20 billion in Thailand, boosting the kingdom's job market and economy.
At present, more than 100,000 Thais work in Taiwan, earning a considerable sum of foreign currency for Thailand every year. Admiring Taiwan's high-tech industry, Thailand hopes to cooperate with the nation on technology transfers to boost its economy. Therefore, Lee was received with great courtesy by the Thai government during his trip to the APEC summit in Bangkok.
The high-tech industry is an important bargaining chip for Taiwan's foreign affairs. How to apply this resource is a matter of national significance.
Parris Chang is a DPP legislator.
Translated by Jackie Lin
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