Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Maintaining alliances is crucial

By Hsu Chih-chia 許志嘉

Last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its decision to sever diplomatic ties with Grenada, the fifth country that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration has had to cut ties with, after Macedonia, Nauru, Liberia and the Dominican Republic. Now Taiwan is left with only 25 diplomatic allies. With its booming economy and advantageous political position, China is not letting up in its attempts to isolate and oppress Taiwan on the diplomatic front.

Of the 33 countries in Central and South America, Taipei has diplomatic ties with 12 of them. The number represents nearly half of all our allies.

As the Taiwan Strait is a long way from Central and South America, the relationship between either side of the Strait with these countries is not based on any geo-strategic advantage. Taipei and Beijing have criticized each other for practicing "dollar diplomacy," mainly because both sides have adopted financial aid as the primary approach to wooing allies in the region. Both are aware that this diplomatic warfare based on financial aid works to neither's advantage and China will find it difficult to buy off all Taiwan's allies.

With its soaring economic development in recent years, China has started to worry about potential energy shortages. Central and South American countries are rich sources of energy. Therefore, Beijing has embarked on a program of economic and trade cooperation and started pouring capital into the region. From January to November last year, China is estimated to have invested US$900 million in the region, nearly 50 percent of its outbound foreign direct investment. The region is attracting most of China's capital, so the foundation of cooperation has been strengthened. In recent years, the total volume of trade between China and Central and South American has also seen rapid growth.

China also participated in the ministerial meeting of the East Asia-Latin America Forum and became an observer of both the Latin American Parliament and the Organization of American States. Beijing has even pushed for the formation of a China-Latin America forum. Through its participation in international and regional organizations and dialogue mechanisms, Beijing aims to draw away Taipei's allies.

Last month, as part of a UN peacekeeping mission, China dispatched its international liaison department to visit Haiti and the Dominican Republic, both of which are allies of Taiwan.

In addition to its enormous political resources and rise as an economic power, China now has more actual economic and strategic interests in Latin America. Will the Dominican Republic and Grenada become the first and second dominos to fall in the face of China's aggressive strategy? It is of great urgency to halt a domino effect. After the news of severed ties with Grenada spread, the government denounced that country although the public and media did not express as much concern as they had in previous cases.

As an assistant professor of international relations, I have found that most college students here are not concerned that the number of our allies is declining. Some even think that the fewer allies we have, the less money we will have to spend.

In the pragmatic world of international politics, the stability of alliances is founded on national interests. To Taiwan, such international alliances symbolize our existence in the international community and confirm our sovereignty. As Latin America is the US' backyard, Taipei's relationship with Central and South American countries will also affect US-Taiwan relations.

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