Fri, Dec 24, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Beijing threatens to isolate Taiwan

Diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Grenada appears to be extremely rocky these days. Based on what Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said after returning from his trip to Beijing last week, the only reason that Mitchell has not officially announced a break in diplomatic ties with Taiwan is either because he is still working out the details of the financial aid package with China, or that he is still hoping that Taiwan will "outbid" Beijing. In any event, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is certainly taking the right stance in refusing to participate in "The Price is Right" game with Beijing and Grenada.

If Grenada chooses to sever ties with Taiwan and enter a relationship with Beijing, it wouldn't be the first time that Taiwan has suffered such a setback. Over the years, as China becomes increasingly affluent and thus more able to offer a "helping hand" to needy countries, it has become increasingly aggressive in persuading Taiwan's allies to switch diplomatic recognition to China. While many long-term and faithful friends have remained unmoved by the temptations, it cannot be denied that Beijing has enjoyed much success.

Normally there is no need to get too upset about Taiwan's allies' decisions to switch recognition, or take it personally. After all, in international politics, self-interest is the only thing that matters to most countries. That is the stark reality. Besides, friends and foes easily switch roles at the drop of a hat.

The case of Grenada is a little different. While it is within Grenada's rights to switch recognition, Mitchell has resorted to tactics resembling "open extortion." Usually, diplomatic negotiations between Taiwan and its allies take place in a low-profile manner and behind closed doors. However, Mitchell has not only made a high-profile trip to Beijing first, but made openly rude statements, accusing Taiwan of not taking diplomatic relations with the Caribbean nation seriously.

As for his reason for doing so, it's a toss-up between poor negotiation strategies on the one hand and deliberate efforts to demean Taiwan on the other. While common sense suggests that the correct answer is the former, in view of Beijing's past interference, one cannot rule out the possibility of the latter.

Experience tells us that Beijing can be highly retaliatory in competition for diplomatic allies. Each time Taiwan successfully enters a new diplomatic relationship, Beijing will immediately try to convince another ally of Taiwan's to switch recognition -- after paying them a hefty sum. The negotiations between Grenada and Beijing began right at the time when Taiwan and Beijing were still competing for Vanuatu's recognition.

In that race, Vanuatu had decided to revoke its recognition of Taiwan along with the removal of its prime minister Serge Vohor. In all likelihood, Grenada was Taiwan's intended punishment in the event that Vanuatu's diplomatic ties with Taiwan were not revoked.

Taiwan has long hoped that this diplomatic race would no longer be "zero-sum" in nature; it is entirely willing to settle for dual recognition of Taiwan and Beijing by allies. For example, before Vanuatu revoked its recognition of Taiwan, Taiwan did not demand that it sever recognition of Beijing. However, such a dual-recognition model is unacceptable to Beijing.

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