Mon, Oct 01, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik On Taiwan: The Vatican’s ‘provisional accord’ with Beijing

No doubt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama can suggest to Pope Francis the types of benchmarks he should hope for. The Chinese Communist Party, for example, is very engaged in the Buddhist theology of “incarnation” and the absolute necessity for the next Dalai Lama to be reincarnated inside Chinese sovereign territory. And no doubt, various Islamic leaders in Xinjiang could brief him on the Communist Party’s thoughtful establishment of resorts, summer camps, and retreat venues offering “vocational training” for tens of thousands of Muslim Uighur men.

In short, Pope Francis can only hope that the situation for China’s underground Catholics doesn’t deteriorate to the level of Tibetan Buddhists or Uighur Muslims. He certainly will not see any new freedoms for Catholics, and as such, he will be unable to move forward on the formal “diplomatic” front. Pope Francis must also consider the Holy See’s unfortunate history of compromising with dictatorships that persecute other religions, but lay off the Catholics because they don’t challenge those persecutions or anything else the regime does.

Finally, over the past several months the Trump Administration voiced its alarm at the erosion of Taipei’s formal diplomatic relations, taking to task several Central American and Caribbean countries for failing to take Taiwan’s “status quo” into account as they derecognized the “Republic of China” in favor of the PRC. Last February, columnists for Rome’s Coriere della Sera evening newspaper reported that “a representative of the US State Department” cautioned the Vatican that “the secrecy and the lack of transparency” in the China talks “will cost you the information battle in the Western media.” Clearly, the Department of State had been concerned for some time. I suspect that the Trump White House and his Ambassador to the Holy See already are playing a more direct role in Vatican-Taipei relations.

John J. Tkacik, Jr. is a retired US foreign service officer who has served in Taipei and Beijing and is now director of the Future Asia Project at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

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