Mon, May 30, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Do not be fooled by ‘life-giving diplomacy’

By James Wang 王景弘

a confidential WHO memo directing internal references to Taiwan as a “Province of China” was leaked, causing concern and anger among the public. The government said that it would “vigorously protest” the directive. Maybe something was lost in translation, or perhaps someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, but the Chinese phrase “our country” (我國) was not fully represented in the English version. They got the “we” part in there, but neglected to use the word “country.” Neither did they, by the way, state that Taiwan was not a province of China.

The government under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has turned disingenuousness into an art form, although this time it has been found out. Addressing an issue involving national identity, they quietly delivered the protest, afraid to openly state our sovereign status. How is this “vigorously protesting” the issue? No, if they want to deceive, they should go all the way and, for the sake of consistency, simply dress it all up with the nice-sounding term huolu kangyi (活路抗議). One could translate this as “life-giving protest,” although I’m sure they would prefer the term “flexible protest,” as we shall see below.

Everyone wants to live longer, and people will do what they can to ensure this. This leaves them vulnerable to quacks flogging false cure-alls on the back of professed life-extending properties and explains why this quack administration is trying to fool people with its idea of a “life-giving diplomacy” (huolu waijiao, 活路外交).

Really, the charlatan who came up with that term should be given the Confucius Peace Prize. Well done. The palpable feel-good factor it produces conceals the fanciful nature of what it ostensibly offers. There is no infallible panacea, just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And if it is going to postpone the end, there’s no mention of how long for. What exactly is this secret formula, anyway? The English text is quite laughable. Ma uses the phrase “flexible democracy,” although that would be something completely different in Chinese.

Ma promotes his “life-giving diplomacy” although for some reason the Chinese term doesn’t appear in the bilingual glossary provided on the Presidential Office’s official Web site. This betrays a degree of diffidence on the government’s part. The glossary does, however, include the words “flexibility” (linghuo, 靈活) and “autonomy” (zizhu, 自主). It seems the Ma administration is failing to give itself enough credit. It also makes one suspect it is trying to hoodwink the public.

So the Presidential Office translates linghuo as “flexibility.” Why not have “flexible diplomacy” as linghuo waijiao (靈活外交) then? Why use the Chinese word for “life-giving,” suggesting a cure-all elixir?

In Chinese, the word for “autonomy” is normally paired with that for “independence.” It is a common collocation. Ma, however, uses the word for “autonomy” in isolation, putting Taiwan’s status on a par with the “autonomous regions” of Tibet and Hong Kong.

Diplomacy is a tool for protecting national sovereignty and the possibility of compromise inherent in flexibility is integral to its operation. Presidents in Taiwan, from the days of Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to the pro-Taiwan, pro-localization Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), have all applied a degree of flexibility to how the country was referred to internationally, but certainly not to the extent that this would mean sacrificing sovereignty

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