Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: China cutting too close to the bone

Make no mistake: China’s influence over Taiwan’s domestic affairs is growing, and quickly.

The modus operandi is all too familiar. Beijing gets wind of a proposed deal or event, cries foul and a government, company or charitable group that was about to complete a transaction of some sort with Taiwan is forced to renege on the deal.

This scenario has played out hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the six decades since Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) humiliated Nationalist regime decamped to Taiwan, forcing the Chinese Communist Party to declare Taiwan an “inalienable part of the Motherland.”

In the last 20 years or so as China’s economic and diplomatic clout has grown, the small number of countries prepared to ignore China’s threats and seal sensitive deals with Taiwan has diminished rapidly.

It has now reached the point where just one country — the US — is willing to suffer the consequences of Chinese saber-rattling by selling Taipei advanced weaponry. But these days, even in the face of well over 1,000 ballistic missiles and arguably the fastest modernizing military in history, Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs are forced to take a back seat as Washington places more value on maintaining cordial ties with authoritarians.

While Taiwan cannot be blamed for this trend — whether or not other countries are prepared to stare down Beijing’s threats is entirely their responsibility — Taipei is entirely responsible for the latest manifestation of this worrying phenomenon. The problem now is that this enduring international obstacle is beginning to rear its sinister head at home.

The risks of deepening ties with — and hence increased dependency on — China that came with the commencement of unofficial business links in the 1980s have, under the blinkered “China first” policy of the present government, begun to manifest themselves in new and more insidious ways.

The latest incident involves culture. The Kaohsiung City Government is considering pulling the documentary The 10 Conditions of Love about exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer from the Kaohsiung Film Festival after Chinese tourists supposedly canceled bookings en masse.

This is a confusing development, because this approach to the Uighur controversy is most inconsistent with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) embrace of the Dalai Lama last month.

Coupled with evidence that the central government refused foreign aid in the wake of Typhoon Morakot last month until after it consulted Beijing, as well as new Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) recent meetings with influential Chinese political figures in Hong Kong before accepting his appointment, the question therefore emerges: Who is running Taiwan these days?

The relationship that Taiwan is forging with China and the Ma government’s indifference toward exercising this nation’s sovereignty mean that Taiwan is disappearing from the radar of international credibility faster than even skeptics could have imagined.

Each new deal that central and regional governments strike with Beijing resembles one of the strings that the Lilliputians used to tie down Gulliver: Every new thread, however innocuous in itself, makes it harder and harder for Taiwan to free itself.

That China has influence on the way other countries deal with Taiwan is one thing, but when domestic affairs, be they cultural, economic, political or diplomatic, have to be run past Beijing before proceeding, it’s time for the alarm bells to start ringing.

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