Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The nation needs new diplomacy

By Philip Yang 楊永明

The severing of diplomatic ties with Chad is neither an isolated nor a purely diplomatic issue. Even after the nation made such a large investment in diplomatic resources, Chad still decided to focus on short-term interests and threw in its lot with China, following the law of the international jungle. Given China's growing power and political influence, there is a risk that this decision will be the beginning of a negative trend.

Taiwan's response to this severe challenge should therefore not be the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alone. A consensual change in understanding and a new approach is required among government officials, diplomats and society at large to avoid being trapped in the cut-throat game of cross-strait diplomacy.

First, a distinction must be made between the diplomacy of recognition and practical diplomacy. The first involves working toward recognition by the international community and international organizations, while practical diplomacy revolves around protecting national interests and promoting social exchange.

At present, Taiwan may be the only state in the world to have problems garnering recognition of its existence despite the universally known fact that it is an independent, free and constitutional democracy and despite almost every country in the world maintaining practical diplomatic relations with Taipei.

This makes the country a member of the international club of nations, and other states also treat it as an important member of that club. They interact with Taiwan on the basis of that recognition, but at official club meetings, Taiwan cannot be officially mentioned.

In other words, Taiwan is already part of the international community but is still trying to find its way to the ticket office. The diplomacy of recognition may be necessary, but it is practical diplomacy that guarantees Taiwan's international interests and international participation.

Second, we should start thinking about how to put an end to diplomatic hostilities with China. Cross-strait relations and diplomatic relations are two sides of the same coin, and the relationship between the two is very clear. China's isolation of Taiwan is intimately linked to its focus on the "one China" policy -- in the past the goal was to promote unification, but now it is to prevent Taiwanese independence.

The unavoidable challenge for Taiwan is therefore to find ways to use the cross-strait relationship and its China policy to make Beijing agree to a diplomatic ceasefire.

Of course, cross-strait relations and diplomatic relations do not counterbalance each other, nor can we choose one or the other. The cross-strait relationship will not remain frozen forever and Taiwan's number of diplomatic allies must not fall into the single digits, so finding a balance between the two is a big challenge.

There is no coordination between China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its agency for relations across the Taiwan Strait, which is why Chad severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan not long before China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) was scheduled to visit Taiwan.

Clearly, cross-strait and diplomatic relations must be coordinated based on overall strategy and policy considerations. A diplomatic ceasefire or a tacit agreement could be achieved by engaging in direct dialogue with Beijing or Washington.

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