Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: PRC oppression in Africa

By James Tu

The severance of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Chad was a crushing blow to an already weakened government. But the twists and turns preceding this diplomatic switch point to political maneuverings by the Beijing government -- hardly surprising considering its track record of suppressing Taiwan through political threats and diplomatic blockade.

Chadian President Idriss Deby's letter of apology to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), dated Aug. 6, was written to coincide with Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) planned departure for the impoverished African state. The timing was a deliberate attempt to embarrass both the government and Premier Su, seen by many as a potential presidential candidate. That plot is but part of a wider plan to reinforce China's economic and strategic interests in Africa in line with its aim to establish itself as the de facto superpower in a region that has been devastated by brutal dictatorships and continuous warfare.

The opposition and some media commentators have criticized the government's handling of the incident as slow and incompetent. However, few have talked about the extent of China's naked ambition and its web of political and economic investments in numerous African countries, including Chad, in the past decade, that form part of its sophisticated and unlawful plan to intimidate and subvert Taiwanese influence.

Of course, one could argue that "empathy" and "mercy" have no place in the war for diplomacy and that "force" and "shrewdness" are what count. What horrifies me, however, is the media's reluctance to denounce China's global aggression and ignorance of its threat to international peace. Add in the pan-blue camp's overly optimistic view of China, which conveniently tends to gloss over any atrocity and wrongdoing carried out by Beijing.

China's meddling in African politics can be traced back in history. In the 1960s and 1970s, Beijing was keen on building an ideological bond and solidarity with undeveloped nations to advance Chinese-style communism. As China has developed into another world superpower alongside the US, it has discovered Africa's economic and strategic importance in pursuing global dominance, and has therefore shifted its interests in Africa into more pragmatic pursuits such as trade, investment and energy.

The Chadian affair was an illustration of Beijing's proficient arm-twisting, playing upon the classic ploy of division and manipulation to cause internal strife and disorder within the country. On the one hand, it was a reflection of Beijing's vigorous quest for control of global natural resources, as Chad now extracts 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day, and on the other, it exposed its vicious campaign to diminish and isolate Taiwan internationally. It is vital for us to understand the motivations as well as the political ramifications behind China's escalating interference in the domestic as well as external affairs of African states.

As suggested by Taiwan's foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Lu (呂慶龍), the diplomatic break was largely a result of China's role in Chad's civil war, as Beijing is regarded by many international observers as the prime financial backer and arms supplier to the FUC rebels. This claim is hardly surprising if we consider China's influential position in neighboring Sudan, which has not disguised its support for the Chadian rebellion.

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