In an apparent bid to pressure the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government into recognizing the so-called “1992 consensus,” China has stepped up efforts to compress Taiwan’s international breathing space.
From the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries in Italy in July, the International Civil Aviation Organization assembly in Canada this week and Interpol’s planned annual summit in Indonesia next month, Taiwan has either had its status belittled, not been invited, or has seen reporters forced to leave venues, reportedly due to Chinese pressure.
In view of these setbacks, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has vowed to continue the nation’s efforts to seek participation in international events, despite China’s incessant obstruction.
“We will fight Chinese oppression and develop our relationships with other nations,” she said on Thursday last week in an open letter marking the DPP’s 30th anniversary.
“Our every effort will leave a legacy and will make Taiwan’s determination and its people more visible in the international community,” she pledged in a speech on Saturday last week at a seminar on the 20th anniversary of the nation’s first direct presidential election. “These kinds of challenges and difficulties are expected to continue, but Taiwan’s efforts will also endure.”
Meanwhile, on the legislative floor yesterday, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said that “if our participation in international organizations depends on China’s ‘charity,’ [Taiwan’s international presence] is an illusion.”
While the words are encouraging, Tsai and government officials should remember that when they are not followed by concrete actions, they are just words.
Considering the government’s handling of foreign affairs, some cannot help but wonder whether Tsai is becoming a typical politician: good at giving rousing talks, but never taking action.
For example, one only has to consider the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ plan to close several embassies and overseas missions. What is the government thinking? At a time when Taiwan needs every chance it can to boost its global presence in the face of China’s obstructionism, Taipei’s actions directly and indirectly reduce its presence.
The Tsai administration said the plan was about limited government resources, not reducing diplomatic operations, but the fact that it has not announced diplomatic operations to fight Beijing’s tactics essentially means that the government is disarming itself diplomatically while diminishing its visibility.
With many recalling how the government wasted a chance on the international front when Minster of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) failed to assert the nation’s dignity — using “Chinese Taipei” rather than “Taiwan” at the WHA meeting in May — and the government not pursuing UN membership this year, there is little confidence that the administration will make a breakthrough in the face of Beijing’s diplomatic blockade.
China is certainly behind the diplomatic dilemma the nation faces and Taiwanese should be indignant that most in the international community are seemingly unwilling to stand up to its bullying.
However, the government is not without blame, as it seems to be silently accepting continued injustice.
With Tsai time and again failing to turn her words into action, it shows nothing but risks degenerating into farce. It is only a matter of time before Taiwanese move from seeing the president’s rousing words as motivational to calling them repulsive and hypocritical.
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