Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Diplomatic rivalry not just a cross-strait issue

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

Amid tremendous pressure from the business community to further lift restrictions on China-bound investment at the recent Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development, the Chinese government slapped Taiwan's face by establishing formal diplomatic relations with Chad, one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

The Chad incident was a manifestation of China's continued incorporation of a two-handed strategy to separate economic issues from politics when it comes to Taiwan.

Chad's decision to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing just as Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) was to leave on a trip to the country showed that China intended to deal a blow to the so-called "Su revisionism," which was aimed at liberalizing economic ties with China.

Beijing's "divide and conquer" strategy toward Taiwan was illustrated by its allying with Taiwan's pan-blue opposition while also avoiding direct contacts with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government. This is in spite of calls by the US and EU for Beijing to engage in direct dialogue with Taiwan's elected leader and government.

The last example of this was the Economic and Trade Forum held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party in mid-April -- right before the summit between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

In addition to its military threat, China has relentlessly insisted on its "one China" principle, constantly suppressed Taiwan's international presence, and continued to obstruct Taiwan's participation in international organizations.

The severing of official ties between Taiwan and Senegal last year when it recognized China, as well as Beijing's blockage of Taiwan's annual effort to gain observer status at the World Health Assembly this May, were crystal clear evidence of this approach.

What further complicated the Taiwan-China relationship were misperceptions created by China's recent goodwill gesture on cross-strait economic and trade issues. On June 14, both sides agreed to implement four types of specialized charter flights. These come after the Lunar New Year charter flights earlier this year.

But now we're back to square one. It's important to let the world know that Beijing's "cutthroat" competition with Taiwan in the diplomatic arena is not simply a matter between Taipei and Beijing. There are greater implications regarding China's strengthening of its global and regional influence that must be taken into account.

For the past six months, China's leaders have conducted a series of tours in Africa. The planned Economic Cooperation Forum between China and more than 40 African countries at the end of this year should be seen as an explicit move by Beijing to reach out to Africa. The energy supply implications as well as China's secret transfer of technology for weapons of mass destruction to some "African rogue states" are essential concerns for the EU.

China's continued efforts in Central and South America are a wake-up call not just to Taiwan but also to Washington. It is therefore in the international international community's interests to closely examine China's expanding influence.

Taiwan's domestic politics should also avoid becoming a victim of China's divide and conquer strategy. China's efforts to erode Taiwan's international status will remain unchanged even if the KMT regains power in 2008. Hence it is imperative for the pan-blue opposition to speak out against China's repeated suppression of Taiwan.

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