The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ reaction to various diplomatic developments is leading many to question the validity of the so-called “diplomatic truce” touted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and wonder whether it might not be a pretense for a surrender of sovereignty.
The latest example came in remarks by the ministry earlier this week in response to BirdLife International’s decision to change the Taiwanese chapter’s name from “Taiwan” to “Chinese.”
Most likely the result of pressure from Beijing, the non-governmental organization (NGO), a wild bird protection agency, changed the Taiwanese chapter’s name from Wild Bird Federation Taiwan to Chinese Wild Bird Federation.
In response, ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said on Monday that because this organization is an NGO, the ministry could not interfere in its decision to change the name, adding that the group had been called Chinese Wild Bird Federation when it was established in 1988 and had only changed its name in 2000.
The ministry’s failure to act is dispiriting.
If rationalizing inaction is policy at the ministry, then Taiwan might as well abandon plans to join international organizations in a way that would uphold its dignity — that is, under its real name — because one thing is certain: Beijing is not about to stop applying pressure on global organizations, governmental or otherwise, to strike the name “Taiwan” from each and every one of them.
Beijing’s oppression of Taiwan is nothing new and at every turn it has endeavored to shoot down Taipei’s efforts to join organizations that require statehood. But if the ministry’s latest stance is any indication of future developments, all those who have worked to create space for Taiwan by joining NGOs under a name worthy of the nation have been served one hard kick in the guts.
Rather than criticizing Beijing for its relentless pressure on others to downgrade the status of Taiwan — something that any party even remotely interested in reciprocating Taipei’s recent efforts at peacemaking would have done — the ministry bent over backwards and used doublespeak to defend China while leaving Taiwanese NGOs in the ditch.
Active diplomatic work is needed to ensure Taiwan’s existence and rightful place in the world. However, when a country’s foreign ministry sounds more like a Ministry of Surrender than a government body in charge of protecting the country’s interests abroad — especially when that country faces a threat to its very existence — it is only a matter of time before the name “Taiwan” drops off the map altogether.
Ironically, what our spineless Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn’t seem to realize is that if it continues in this direction, it could eventually find itself without a job, or at best become a mere provincial government agency with little say over international affairs.
Surely this cannot be what the hundreds of ministry officials who worked hard to make a career in international diplomacy are hoping for.
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