This week the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) took turns blasting the government for providing aid to the nation's allies in the South Pacific. Conveniently, they did not account for Taiwan's diplomatic predicament nor the allies' genuine humanitarian needs.
Taiwan's economic success was built on the back of hard work, but along the way this nation's allies also extended a helping hand. After World War II, a poverty-stricken Taiwan -- looted in part by the KMT -- received help in the form of cash, material and medicinal aid from its wealthier allies, eventually including the US. Now that Taiwan has been fortunate enough to join the ranks of the affluent, it should not forget this history and the responsibility that the well-to-do have for supporting friends in need.
There is no denying that political benefit flows from strategic delivery of aid. The problems start when aid is misused or cut off from those in need when political factors overwhelm humanitarian ones. The pan-blue camp's criticism of "politicized aid" on this score is idiotic. Everything the government is doing is about the same as what KMT administrations have done in the past -- and would do again.
In fact, it is most likely that what is being done is being done better than before, given that there is far more oversight now of Taiwan's diplomatic corps and aid programs.
Equally contemptible is the pan-blue claim that Taiwanese are suffering because they are not the first priority of the government and are losing out to foreign aid recipients. There are, of course, poor families and individuals in Taiwan who need the help of the government, as there are such people in every country -- but that does not and should not forbid those governments from donating generously to the wretched in other countries, either in the long term or in answer to crisis situations.
A balance needs to be struck in accomplishing both objectives.
Criticizing the government's South Pacific diplomacy therefore makes little sense. The PFP, however, has gone to the extreme of accusing allies of "political extortion." This type of attack and name-calling will contribute nothing to the health of Taiwan's diplomacy -- indeed, it is the type of attack that emboldens pro-China forces not only within the allies' administrations, but also in other countries where Taiwan needs to exert the most influence.
Every one of President Chen Shui-bian's (
That the public is never offered a coherent alternative betrays such language for the waffle that it is: populist nonsense that would be disowned at the very moment that the pan-blue camp next comes to power. In this sense, Taiwan's allies have reason to be comforted that foreign affairs is under the control of people with some insight. For the rest of us, however, there is little comfort to be had watching legislators make Taiwan sound like a blinkered haven for greed.