The “diplomatic truce” with China has always been one political achievement that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been proud of.
However, if Taiwanese diplomacy means currying favor with China, envoys neglecting their duties and saying things that are harmful to the nation’s image, while allies look to switch diplomatic recognition to China because the Taiwanese government is too passive — then Taiwan’s foreign policy is in deep trouble.
If Ma continues the diplomatic truce and continues to feel good about it, Taiwan’s foreign relations will one day collapse and the nation’s international space along with it.
The government recently recalled representative to Singapore Vanessa Shih (史亞平). Various reasons were given for the recall and the public was left guessing.
Some said it was because Shih displayed the Republic of China (ROC) flag and sang the national anthem on National Day, while others said it was because she met with Singaporean opposition leaders.
These guesses and the fact that Shih’s successor still has not been accepted by Singapore have had a negative impact on bilateral relations.
They have also brought to light cracks in the government’s insistence that Beijing subscribes to the so-called “1992 consensus” — that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what ‘China’ means.”
Aside from the Shih issue, which has yet to be resolved, there have been reports that Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), who was said to be in the city-state in the middle of last month to attend the Singapore Air Show, was actually there to conduct military exchanges with his Singaporean counterparts.
As a result of these media reports, the Singaporean government launched a strong protest and broke off military cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan, revealing that the military exchanges between the two countries — of which Ma has been very proud — were not as good as they were said to be.
The government’s inability to manage relations with Singapore has raised questions about its ability to manage relations with the nation’s diplomatic allies and other countries.
Prior to the presidential election in January, Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), the former director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, Missouri, embarrassed Taiwan when she was arrested by the FBI on charges of mistreating her two Philippine housekeepers.
To everyone’s surprise, the government first claimed that Liu was covered by diplomatic immunity, only to find out later that the Taiwan-US agreement limited diplomatic immunity to the execution of approved professional duties.
Worst still, Liu’s mistreatment of her housekeepers constituted a breach of human rights, which is unacceptable in most countries. When the Ma administration defended her, it further sullied the nation’s international image.
Since the diplomatic truce has become the top guiding principle for foreign affairs, the nation’s envoys, despite being aware of Taiwan’s difficult international situation, have been negligent in their duties and have on several occasions turned the nation into an international laughing stock.
The first secretary at the country’s representative office in Fiji, who was charged with sexually harassing a Fijian employee, is only one example. Even worse, then-representative to Fiji Victor Chin (秦日新), who was in charge of disciplining the secretary, used public funds to pay for dates with a female secretary at the Japanese representative office in Fiji.