Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The nation needs a new strategy on diplomacy

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

In most sports, it is said that the best defense is a good offense. The more forward momentum you have, the harder it is for your opponent to knock you down.

Given the rise of China's global power and the continuation of Beijing's cut-throat strategy of strangling Taiwan's international space, it is essential for Taiwan to turn defense into offense.

In the past year we have witnessed China's offensive diplomacy in Africa and Central America, as well as continued efforts to block Taiwan's bid for observer status in the WHO.

Beijing's "purchase" of Taiwan's former diplomatic ally Chad on the eve of Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) scheduled visit in August was also aimed at humiliating the nation in the international arena. The diplomatic contest between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China extends to almost every corner of the world.

The past year's experience shows that while Taiwan has been answering its opponent's attacks, its efforts have been to little avail. If the nation is barely moving, or trying to stand still, even the slightest push will make it go backwards.

While being aggressive constitutes the core element of Taiwan's new diplomatic initiatives, intelligence and aggressiveness must go hand in hand. The time for new thinking and strategic planning is now, before the first punch is thrown.

New policy depends more on the reallocation and redistribution of existing resources than a major review of operations. The goal is to keep China busy with Taiwan's diplomatic maneuvering.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in power, it was the "number of allies" that mattered. The goal of diplomacy was to maintain as many diplomatic allies as possible. The result was that both sides of Taiwan Strait engaged in so-called "money diplomacy."

Even after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power, the situation remained largely unchanged, though the DPP government introduced some creative ideas such as placing more emphasis on humanitarian assistance and non-governmental organization activities.

Nevertheless, Taiwan continues to be labeled as a "bad influence" along with China by Australia and New Zealand on the island nations of South Pacific. The diplomatic battles between Taipei and Beijing in Central America and Africa attracted more attention than the government's efforts in non-political areas.

To distinguish Taiwan's diplomatic practices from China's, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should mobilize its embassies and representative offices to "light fires" wherever possible to keep Beijing busy trying to put them out.

For example, instead of engaging in the "money game" with China, Taiwan should show evidence to its allies that Beijing cannot deliver on its promises. Moreover, Taiwan should keep reminding countries that contemplate embracing Beijing the downside of China's growing influence, including its negative impact on local employment and economic growth.

A unified information program should be executed by the ministry and the Government Information Office worldwide to shatter the misconception that "China is a peaceful rising power" and reveal to the world community that Beijing's "peaceful development" is based on militaristic and authoritarian foundations.

To incorporate civil society into foreign affairs practices, Taiwan's political parties should set aside partisan differences.

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