Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The stick is mightier than the carrot

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has used a more pragmatic carrot-and-stick approach in that country's Taiwan policy by tightening its already tough approach on certain issues while softening its stance on others.

The soft "united front" strategy of China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) aims to co-opt Taiwanese businesspeople, media outlets and politicians into allowing Chinese tourists to enter Taiwan. The tougher approach of China's foreign ministry, meanwhile, aims to cut Taiwan off from most -- if not all -- participation in the international community.

China is mixing up both approaches so that threats, coercion, promises of benefits and enticements will eventually compel Taiwan to accept the "one China" principle. A lack of overall coordination, however, means that frequent and sudden policy changes undermine this goal.

There are reports that China -- hot on the heels of securing diplomatic recognition from Chad on the eve of Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) visit to that African nation -- may try to establish relations with Palau prior to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) visit to the Pacific island nation in a few weeks. Superficially, this would embarrass Chen and provide support to those campaigning to unseat him. For China's foreign ministry, this may seem a sensible strategy. The result, however, could be the opposite of what it might expect.

The campaign to unseat Chen is focused on the alleged corruption of members of the first family, who have been subject to unending media "revelations." One of the effects and possible intentions of Chen's visit to Palau will be to distract the media. And if China really does win over Palau on the eve of Chen's visit, it will be playing into Chen's hands. It would allow him to redirect the focus of the media from the domestic situation to foreign affairs, while China's suppression might serve to consolidate pan-green-camp support.

The China factor may also dampen support for the anti-Chen campaign and strengthen anti-China sentiment, a situation that Chen would welcome after so many months of political and personal difficulties.

When members of Taiwan's delegation to the International Children's Games in Bangkok over the weekend received their medals wrapped in the Republic of China flag, members of the Beijing team snatched the flags away. This embarrassed even the pro-China Taipei City Government into expressing strong displeasure at the Chinese team's actions.

Pointless provocations by Beijing, such as the stupid behavior of its goons in Bangkok, has kept alive a feeling of resentment in the pro-independence camp, parts of the pro-unification camp and among the general public. This resentment is replacing the sense of detente created by, say, allowing 400 managers from Microsoft's China operations to hold a meeting in Taiwan, or the discussions about opening Taiwan up to Chinese tourism.

China is also scuppering any chance that TAO Director Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) will be allowed to visit Taiwan. Its approach is canceling out the gains made courtesy of the TAO's "united front" activities.

Chinese foreign affairs officials may think spending huge amounts of money to buy over Taiwan's allies may be a good policy, but cutthroat diplomatic competition is certain to erase the TAO's achievements. The lack of coordination between the agencies responsible for carrying out Taiwan policy has resulted in a situation where each acts as it sees fit, sometimes even working directly against each other.

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