Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

China's diplomacy of distraction

By Wang Kun-yi王崑義

As part of his scheduled trip to the APEC meeting concluded Sunday in Santiago, Chile, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) had planned to visit four countries in Latin America, including Brazil. In addition to being anxious about the outcome of the APEC meeting, Taiwanese people are also concerned about issues like whether China will once again use the model of "visiting diplomacy" to shift the cross-strait diplomatic battle to Central and South America.

In the past, Taiwan was able to safeguard its diplomatic space in Central and South America. Rather than perceiving this as effective dollar diplomacy, it would be more pertinent to say that it was a result of the US' Monroe Doctrine, which was used to restrict the rising China from dragging the cross-strait battle into Central and South America.

The situation, however, seems to be gradually changing. Under Hu's strategy to limit Taiwan's participation in the international environment, Taiwan's high-ranking government officials repetitively use visits to Central and South America as a reason to make a stopover in the US, for the purpose of disseminating anti-China opinion.

This has long irritated China; therefore, if China can play a greater role diplomatically in Central and South America, Taiwan's hopes of having a presence in the international community will be ruined.

It is also part of China's strategy as a way to expand to the next town after the successful deployment of its security officers in Haiti [Taiwan's ally] recently. Hu's Central and South American visit was merely a tactic to use as many opportunities as possible before considering anything else.

Does the Monroe Doctrine no longer apply to China? We can only say that China's incessant proclamations over a possible war caused by Taiwan's independence have put profound pressure on the US; therefore, it has had no choice but to follow China's pace. It has become apparent since US President George W. Bush's re-election that resolving the situation in Iraq, the nuclear crisis in North Korea, and others all need China's joint effort. As a result, the US may not think it is a good idea to keep Hu out of Central and South America. This is a kind of international reality.

The greatest threat to Taiwan's diplomatic space is China's ambition to cross the borders of the ASEAN. In cooperation with Australia's policy to go north, China wants to reach out to New Zealand and Australia, and from there, pin down south Pacific islands to prevent them from leaning toward Taiwan. If China is allowed the opportunity to build relationships with Central and South American nations and control nations of the south Pacific Ocean, it will cause even more diplomatic hardship for Taiwan in the region.

As a result, we cannot take Hu's visit to Latin America lightly. Every single step China takes in the international community has a purpose: not only in accumulating the international strength all powerful nations require, but also, more importantly, in hindering Taiwan's diplomatic expansion.

Therefore, while Taiwan is exerting its best efforts to go east of the Pacific Ocean, China is also adopting a strategy to go east as an attempt to pull the cross-strait diplomatic battle to Central and South America. This is our greatest concern for Taiwan's future diplomacy.

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