In his op-ed piece in the Taipei Times (“Reading the political winds: the case for discretion,” Aug. 13, page 6), research fellow Ryan Hass of the Brookings Institution in Washington said: “Now is not the time for Taiwan to employ megaphone diplomacy to press the United States to do more on its behalf. The more Taiwan draws public attention to its appeals, the less it might like the response it receives.”
The term “megaphone diplomacy” is not often seen, but whether it is suitable to describe President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) diplomatic ideals and actions requires clarification.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines “megaphone diplomacy” as “the practice of making strong or threatening statements in order to make another country do what you want.”
Based on this definition, US President Donald Trump is very adept at such diplomacy. From his handling of the North Korean nuclear crisis to the trade war with China and US sanctions on Iran, Trump has applied “maximum pressure” on others, forcing them to make concessions.
Since Tsai took office, she has attempted to maintain the “status quo” and control risk in the Taiwan Strait without humbling herself or being arrogant.
Although several diplomatic allies have severed ties with Taiwan, international airlines have been pressured to list Taiwan as part of China, Taichung’s right to host the East Asian Youth Games next year has been revoked, and Chinese fighter jets and warships repeatedly conduct military exercises around Taiwan, Tsai has maintained a low profile and handled the situation calmly and pragmatically, without making mistakes or dancing to Beijing’s tune.
Maintaining the “status quo” is at the heart of her cross-strait policy.
Although many criticize Tsai as being too weak or passive, it is unarguable that Taiwan has made progress in practical economic, trade and security relations with the US, Japan and European countries.
To be specific, Japan’s representative office in Taipei has been renamed the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, and the US Congress has passed the Taiwan Travel Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.
Today, it is China that is the notorious breaker of the “status quo” due to its oppression and containment of Taiwan, while Taiwan has received unprecedented international sympathy and support.
Some members of the US Congress are pushing for friendly initiatives, such as joint military drills between Taiwan and the US. This is not because Taiwan initiated the idea, but is rather a reflection of the mainstream consensus in Washington that the US no longer has any illusions about Beijing.
As confrontation between the two powers continues to grow, the scale of international politics is tilting in favor of Taiwan’s 23 million people.
In 2002, in response to China’s poaching of Taiwan’s South Pacific ally Nauru, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) claimed that “there is one country on each side” of the Taiwan Strait.
As a result, tension mounted in the relationships between Taiwan, China and the US, and Chen was seen as a “troublemaker” by then-US president George W. Bush’s administration. Tsai, who was serving as Mainland Affairs Council minister, was sent as Chen’s envoy to Washington to clean up the mess.
Taiwan might be a beneficiary of Trump’s megaphone diplomacy, but Tsai is has definitely not initiated such diplomacy.
Chen Yung-chang is deputy secretary-general of the Taipei Chamber of Commerce.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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