Sun, Jul 22, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Holding firm on diplomatic course

By Masao Sun 孫國祥

In 1965, Edmund Gullion, former dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, coined the term “public diplomacy” and in 1990, Joseph Nye, a former US assistant secretary of defense and dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, developed the “soft power” concept.

Since then, many countries have used these concepts as key parts of their foreign policy as they communicate with, inspire and attract the governments and people of other countries to achieve their political goal of satisfying both their own citizens and gaining recognition from other nations.

Since Taiwan’s first power transfer in 2000, both sides of the Taiwan Strait have used these concepts as they try to win the recognition and support of overseas Chinese and friends in the international community.

Taiwan has been relying on universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law to connect with the world and maintain dialogue with old and new overseas Chinese associations.

China has been relying on economic reform and opening up to attract foreign investors and grab the attention of overseas Chinese communities. As part of this, China has relied on large numbers of new emigrants participating in overseas Chinese affairs, changing the internal organizational structure of these groups. It has also taken advantage of the open social systems in those democratic countries to switch the recognition of these overseas Chinese associations from Taiwan to China through voting procedures.

Recently, the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association, which has a century-long history in New York, voted to switch from the Republic of China (ROC) to the Chinese flag at its 90th anniversary celebrations starting next month.

In 2002, New York’s Gee How Oak Tin Association also switched to the Chinese flag, and San Francisco’s Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association caused a controversy in 2013 by forcefully removing the ROC flag.

Some leaders of overseas Chinese communities have said in private that the change of flag at these associations has been somewhat related to the poor administrative performance of the government.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has claimed that cross-strait relations were the best they had been since 1987 after he put aside the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty during his presidency, and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 was the first meeting between leaders from the two sides.

However, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association still removed the ROC flag based on the reasoning that the performance of Ma’s administration had departed from the ideals of ROC founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙). A reasonable conclusion is that the decision was made based on the personal interests of association officials, as well as threats and bribes from the Chinese Communist Party. Some media outlets even reported in 2015 that Beijing had offered US$20 million to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in exchange for its removal of the flag.

Looking back at President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administrative performance over the past two years, she has handled cross-strait relations in accordance with the ROC Constitution and the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), and she has attempted to do so using a consistent, continuous and predictable cross-strait policy and by avoiding provocation.

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