Thu, Aug 18, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : The failings of the foreign ministry

What good is a foreign ministry if it cannot defend a nation’s name and dignity when the need arises? Sadly, this appears to be a recurring situation in Taiwan. Despite a protest lodged by the Government Information Office about two weeks ago, the Taiwanese public was yesterday treated to the news that the Taiwan-produced epic Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊) is still labeled as a film made in “China, Taiwan” on the Venice Film Festival’s Web site.

The film’s director, Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), was quoted by local media as saying that he was at one point asked by foreign ministry officials what he felt the bottom line on the matter was.

“I am just a movie maker,” Wei said dejectedly. “Why are we the ones who need to define a stance on the matter?”

One can’t blame Wei for feeling demoralized. After all, just as it is natural to expect athletes to perform at their best and represent their country with honor at an international sports competition, it is natural to expect film directors to do their utmost to deliver to the world high-quality movies that would do their nation proud.

Isn’t it also natural to expect a nation’s foreign affairs officials to do their job, namely defend and safeguard their country’s name and dignity?

As Wei successfully lives up to all that is expected of him as a movie maker and more, delivering quality films and having been nominated for the Golden Lion award, why can’t the nation’s foreign affairs officials do their job, namely fight for the country’s name, not quiz Wei on what he feels the “bottom line” should be? To say that Taiwanese are shocked by the seeming incompetence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an understatement.

The lassitude of the ministry, and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government as a whole, is truly disheartening.

The ministry’s ineptitude brings to mind an incident in March 2009 in which Yushan was labeled as being “Chinese Taipei” in an online competition to find the “seven natural wonders” of the world.

More than two years have passed and today Yushan remains a wonder of “Chinese Taipei,” according to the New7Wonders Foundation’s Web site. So much for Taiwan’s stunning natural beauty and so much for the hard work of the nation’s people when as a result of the government’s incompetence and stupor, Taiwan is so easily dismissed from the world map so that China can step in and take the credit.

The ministry on Tuesday gathered in Taipei the 81 heads of Taiwan’s overseas diplomatic missions and representative offices and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) trumpeted how his “flexible diplomacy” has borne fruit these past three years.

However, judging Ma’s words in the context of the Seediq Bale and Yushan incidents, Ma cannot possibly be suggesting that the ministry’s officials have done a good enough job in their service of the nation.

The point of having a foreign ministry and training foreign affairs officials is enabling them to defend and promote the nation’s existence and dignity.

We all know it is tough for the nation’s foreign affairs officials to fight the reality in which more often than not international organizations must yield to China’s bullying, but it is even more disheartening to see Taiwan’s own top decisionmakers seemingly not bothered by incidents that so deeply affect Taiwanese.

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