Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Allies come and go, but do we really need them?

By HoonTing 雲程

Sao Tome and Principe’s announcement that the nation was terminating its diplomatic ties with Taiwan was met with widely differing reactions: Some said the end of the relationship would save Taiwan money, while others said that it could trigger a diplomatic snowball effect.

In fact, such a snowball effect occurred 101 times in the past — including some nations that have severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan twice.

It occurred 11 times in the 1950s, nine times in the 1960s, 51 times in the 1970s, six times in the 1980s, 12 times in the 1990s, 10 times in the 2000s and twice since 2010. Of the 193 UN member states, Taipei maintains ties with just 10.8 percent. What does all this mean?

The government thinks that the nation’s allies can speak up for Taiwan at international organizations and that they prove Taiwan is a nation. However, allies’ speeches on Taiwan’s behalf are completely ineffective. In international organizations such as the World Health Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Criminal Police Organization, the participation of “Chinese Taipei” is becoming further restricted, downgraded or completely excluded.

However, even experts neglect to mention that Taiwan’s diplomatic relations are predicated on the recognition of the Republic of China (ROC) as the sole legitimate government of China. Among the nation’s allies in Central America, Panama and Nicaragua established ties with the ROC relatively early, in 1922 and 1930 respectively, and the rest mostly did so between 1940 and 1941. However, they established ties with the Chinese government at the time and that has nothing to do with Taiwanese.

Later, in 1971, the illusion that the ROC was the sole legitimate government of China was burst by UN Resolution 2758.

Before 1992, the legitimacy of the ROC’s rule over Taiwan was based on the number of diplomatic allies that recognized the ROC as China — as the number dwindled, the status of the regime became increasingly precarious. It was therefore reasonable to provide foreign aid in exchange for diplomatic ties. However, after the direct presidential election in 1996, the legitimacy of the government’s rule over Taiwan was built on the public’s validation. The current concern over the low number of diplomatic allies is simply a matter of habit that is divorced from reality.

It is said that former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) intentionally did not take over Kinmen and Matsu in order to set a trap to keep Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) connected with China. If that were the case, Beijing would surely leave Taiwan with a few diplomatic allies.

From this perspective, local media reports that five more allies are about to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan is a matter of these media outlets playing along with Beijing’s political threats and they can be safely ignored. If Taiwan loses all its allies, its national status would become evident and this would be a good thing.

China seized a US uncrewed underwater drone in the South China Sea in an attempt to intimidate the next US administration into using “revolutionary diplomacy” to create an incident that would lead to talks and give Beijing a bargaining chip. The plan backfired when US president-elect Donald Trump said that the US should let China keep the drone.

If anything can be learned from this incident, it is that the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should immediately sever diplomatic ties with the five nations feared to be about to renounce ties. By showing that it does not care about how many allies it has, Taiwan can free itself from such threats.

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