Thu, Sep 22, 2016 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Expanding our diplomatic outreach

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) returned home on Sept. 8 from a trip to the Vatican for the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa. Chen, a Catholic, met with Pope Francis and also visited a church, where he signed a guest book as “Vice President, Taiwan.”

His visit was expected to help enhance diplomatic ties with the Vatican amid growing concerns that relations might end. One day after his return, the Vatican sent a delegation led by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien for a five-day visit to Taiwan, during which it met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

The Papal State is Taiwan’s only European diplomatic ally, but it is widely believed that the Vatican is interested in establishing diplomatic ties with China.

As an authoritarian country which advocates communism and atheism, China is hardly compatible with the Vatican. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took power, the party-state has tightened control: not only has it set up tightened Internet censorship, it also demands that non-governmental organizations establish internal Chinese Communist Party branches.

It has a tight grip on religion, cracks down violently on Falun Gong practitioners and calls the Catholic Church an underground church, while its own Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association appoints its own bishops.

For these reasons, it has been difficult to normalize relations between China and the Vatican.

For many years the Vatican has been trying to establish relations with Beijing out of concern for the 13 million Catholics in China, but a major obstacle has been a disagreement over the appointment of bishops. While the Vatican appoints its bishops to work at churches worldwide, China sees such appointments as a form of political intervention. Moreover, China also demands that the Vatican sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

According to news agency reports, China and the Vatican are trying to work out a compromise. Nonetheless, the Vatican has never unilaterally broken off diplomatic ties with any nation, so severing ties with Taiwan in favor of China could damage its reputation.

In light of this situation, dual recognition has been suggested by the US-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a non-profit group devoted to promoting international support for Taiwan. According to this idea, Taiwan should suggest that the Vatican simultaneously recognize Taipei and China, so that it would not have to abandon Taiwan for China’s Catholics.

Such an open-minded and creative approach would show the international community that Taiwan is friendly and pragmatic, and might prove to be very helpful for future diplomatic endeavours. It is worth noting that last year Pope Francis played an important role in helping the US and Cuba resume diplomatic ties after a hiatus of more than half a century.

Hopefully Taiwan, the Vatican and China can also work out a solution that would benefit all three parties.

Since June, both Tsai and Chen have made visits to foreign leaders. Such actions are necessary to help Taiwan achieve a diplomatic breakthrough. Since UN Resolution No. 2758 was passed in 1971, Taiwan’s international space has been shrinking. With the rise of China in recent years, the circumstances have gotten even worse, but Taiwan should never stop trying to broaden its diplomatic horizons.

A look at the recent international situation shows that our leaders need to work hard on improving our ties with other nations. Taiwan must not remain passive or without a voice in the international community.

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