Is it really such a good idea to make Taiwan’s foreign relations dependent on China’s goodwill? Even if China does not establish diplomatic ties with the Gambia and had no idea about what Jammeh was planning to do, is that any guarantee that Taiwan can maintain diplomatic relations with its existing partners for the foreseeable future? Herein lie the difficulties and limits of “flexible diplomacy” as it exists today.
If we are not clear about the difficulties and limits of “flexible diplomacy,” Taiwan will not be able to get out of its foreign-relations predicament. While Ma’s government concentrates on maintaining the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic partner countries, it has not been able to significantly cut the monetary price that Taiwan pays to keep up the numbers, nor has it widened Taiwan’s space on the international stage to any great extent. Given these realities, Taiwan should prioritize and cherish the de facto diplomatic relations it maintains with nearly 100 countries. If Taiwan fulfills its obligations as a member of the international community, it will enjoy other countries’ respect. That would be much more productive than just pursuing nominal diplomatic relations — an approach that could breach the dam of Taiwan’s foreign relations in the end.
Tung Chen-yuan is a professor in National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies.
Translated by Julian Clegg