No one, not even president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), could have been surprised last week when American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young informed him that Washington had turned down his application to visit the US before his inauguration next Tuesday.
Despite the upbeat sound bites issued by Washington following Ma’s victory and its ostensible desire for better and closer relations between Taipei and Beijing, last week’s rejection was a sign of the shape of things to come.
Closer cross-strait relations or not, the US State Department and the White House are not about to change their longstanding policy of barring high-ranking Taiwanese government officials from visiting the US, which during President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) eight-year tenure served as a stark, if not humiliating, reminder of the reality of great power politics.
Another aspect of Washington’s approach to Taiwan that is unlikely to change is the desire to sell it weapons.
To wit, news that a Ma visit to the US was “not necessary” had barely registered when Young announced that the US remained committed to helping Taiwan modernize its military. To be fair, though, one thing did change this time around: It seemed that encouraging Taiwan to import US beef was now a top-line policy, as Young mentioned it in the same breath as the F-16s.
What this meant was that Washington could continue to yield to Beijing’s pressure and humiliate its ally, but please, please, buy our weapons and our beef. We’re your friend, as long as you remain a market for our goods.
This position is the result of different branches of government vying for different outcomes, and Young’s speech was the channel through which these contradictory discourses were voiced. While the White House and the State Department seek to mollify Beijing through engagement and the avoidance of sensitive issues such as Taiwan, others — such as the Pentagon — continue to seek to provide Taiwan with appropriate armaments, which is sure to anger Beijing.
Sadly, while it isn’t Washington’s intention to humiliate the Taiwanese leadership or its people, the consequence of such public announcements is that other countries and international organizations will have no compunction in treating Taiwanese as second-rate global citizens.
In other words, Beijing’s pressure on other countries isn’t the only factor in how the international community has continued to snub Taiwan’s efforts to be recognized as an equal.
Young’s diplomatic slap in the face will have repercussions on how the WHO, to use one example, will deal with Taipei’s application for membership or observer status later this month; or sports organizations, to use another, will continue to bar Taiwanese athletes from participating as Taiwanese or unfurling the national flag when they win a medal.
After all, if the world’s only superpower and an ally of Taiwan can publicly treat it primarily as a market for its products, why should lesser partners care about it?
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
Some people are saying the weather has been wonderful this year. That depends on how one defines wonderful weather. The Ministry of Economic Affairs last week announced that the alert level for Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli and Taichung areas are to be raised from green to yellow, and that water pressure is to be reduced at night. Few households with water tower storage facilities would have noticed any restrictions on their supply, but people concerned with the water situation have been aware for some time that the lack of typhoons this year, coupled with low rainfall, has meant that in the
Although China’s “reform and opening up” has become an empty slogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) still put on a show by touring southern China to mark the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone’s establishment. His motive was not to regain the international community’s trust, but to shore up his power in China. Externally, it was a response to diplomatic setbacks, and it even revealed his adventurist attitude of not being afraid to go to war. When former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in 1992 conducted similar inspections, it was to suppress the “leftist wind” that was interfering with his
An increasing number of cafes and other businesses in Taiwan are keeping animals, which draw in people who are seeking the next perfect shot for their Instagram accounts. In the past these were mostly standard house pets, such as cats and dogs, which are accustomed to living indoors and being around people. However, raccoons have become popular, as well as alpacas and other “unusual” animals that require specialty care and specific environments to thrive. In late June, a customer recorded a video of the owner of a coffee shop in Taipei apparently unleashing a border collie on a raccoon, who was the star