Thu, Jan 17, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Chinese predators and local ennui

China has done it again, buying a Taiwanese ally with a very large sum of money. It is highly regrettable that 42 years of Taiwanese-Malawi relations apparently meant little to a Malawian government in thrall of US$6 billion. And it is laughable that China continues to attack Taiwanese diplomatic interests with not so much as a response from supporters of the cross-strait "status quo" in the US.

This circus was designed to embarrass the Taiwanese government and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in particular. China signed a memorandum of understanding with Malawi on Dec. 28 in which Malawi said it would adhere to the "one China" principle, but it seems that Malawi was asked to wait until Taiwan's legislative elections were over before announcing the switch -- conveniently, it was also the day Chen embarked on a trip to cement ties with Taiwan's Central American allies.

This is a near replay of July 2002 when Nauru, in a convenient coincidence, announced it would recognize China on the day Chen was sworn in as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should receive kudos for -- unusually -- speaking with one voice with the DPP government in condemning China's predatory strategy.

However, the KMT is living in a fantasy land of Chinese benevolence judging from his claim yesterday that his "three noes" pledge -- promising no move toward unification or independence and no use of force -- would pave the way for long-term peace in the Taiwan Strait and satisfy Beijing.

In a world of genuine benevolence, Taiwan would have gained international space following the agreement reached between former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) during Lien's visit to China in May 2005.

We're still waiting for any sign of it.

Beijing could also have ended its hunt for Taiwan's allies as a sign of goodwill following KMT Legislator John Chiang's (蔣孝嚴) remarks last August that China would leave the allies alone if Taipei established better relations with Beijing.

In March, two referendums will be held in tandem with the presidential election. One is a DPP-initiated referendum on joining the UN under the name "Taiwan," and the other is a KMT-proposed referendum on "rejoining" the world body using the official name of the Republic of China, or any other "practical" title that would uphold the nation's dignity.

Regardless of which version the public supports, the referendum questions offer Taiwanese a fine opportunity to let the world know that their country wants to be treated with respect and recognized as part of the world community.

If neither referendum passes -- a grave possibility given the KMT's penchant for boycotting plebiscites -- the message would be bleak and difficult to undo: If Taiwanese can't assert themselves and claim a place on the world map, then how can they denounce others for swapping allegiances?

China can and should be criticized for poaching Taiwan's allies, but so should those Taiwanese who can't be bothered to stand up for themselves.

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