Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan can compete for compassionin the world

By C. V. Chen 陳長文

The measure of a society is not in the sophistication of its material culture nor the rise in its quality of life. It is in the consideration it shows for its weakest and most vulnerable members.

Regarding the recent disaster in our neighboring countries in Asia, what is our attitude toward this tragedy in Taiwan?

There are simply too many things in this world that cause concern. But as members of the world community, we need to consider these issues, which affect the whole of humanity. But living in Taiwan, where is our effort directed? What are we concerned about? We are concerned about whether we are called Taiwan or China. Whether we are Taiwanese or Chinese. Whether we have 26 or 27 diplomatic allies.

The loss of life from the earthquake off Sumatra and the associated tsunamis is the highest of any such event in many decades. Even if the victims survive the immediate situation, the job of rebuilding their homes and assuaging the grief of their loss will be long and hard. This should not be difficult to understand by people who have experienced the 921 Earthquake. Taiwan's charitable organizations responded so rapidly and warm-heartedly in providing aid to the devastated areas.

Compared to the compassion of the people, the government's performance seems to have come up short. Taiwan is constantly saying that it wants to "engage with the world," so isn't this time, when much of Asia is engulfed in disaster, a good time to act? The government need only divert its generous diplomatic budget, or its arms procurement budget, and it would be able to assist innumerable people engulfed by the disaster. Could any action be more meaningful?

I recall reading about Mark Chen (陳唐山), Taiwan's minister of foreign affairs, expressing dissatisfaction over Grenada's wavering diplomatic relations with Taiwan last month. We had already given the country US$40 million in aid, and during an official visit to Grenada, provided a further US$1.5 million. I decided to find out more about Grenada and discovered that it has a population of only about 100,000 (just 2/100,000th of the world population) and that it covered an area of just 344km2 (just 2/1,000,000th of the earth's landmass).

We have spent US$41.5 million to buy off a tiny country that will not stand firm in its support for Taiwan. If we are that concerned with the status that other countries accord Taiwan, and want the whole world to know about Taiwan and respect Taiwan, then surely giving US$41.5 million in aid to the quake victims in south Asia would be far more beneficial? By doing this, not only do we help people in time of trouble, we also accumulate merit and elicit the heartfelt admiration of people around the world. Why should we not act in this way? The reasoning is obvious, and I truly hope that our government can see that our priorities are revealed by where our compassion lies.

China will now be contributing US$63 million in money and goods to the relief effort. If our government really wants to compete with China, we should compete in the area of who can do more for the victims of disasters around the world than to compete over who can spend more on armaments.

Following the 921 Earthquake in Taiwan, half the donations received by the Red Cross came from abroad. In our time of need, people in other countries came to our aid and did not ignore us. They reached out a helping hand. Now that south Asia has suffered a natural disaster many times more severe than the 921 Earthquake, and people of the affected countries are in dire straits, both the government and the private sector should go their aid, helping them overcome their current difficulties and rebuild their homes.

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