After 36 years, diplomatic relations between the Solomon Islands and the Republic of China (ROC) ended on Monday after the former switched recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Summing up the gains and losses of the incident, anyone with good logic cannot help but snicker.
First, according to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rigid traditional thinking, luring the Solomon Islands away at this time is an intervention in Taiwan’s presidential election next year.
In other words, it is intended as an attack on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and support for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The problem is that as Beijing sees the DPP as pro-Taiwanese independence, it should have known that the ROC means little to it. Ending the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic recognition of the ROC is an extension of the past struggle between the KMT and the CCP, which hurts the KMT, not the DPP. What exactly is the CCP thinking?
Second, if China believes that the ruling DPP should be responsible for Taiwan’s diplomatic performance, the diplomatic switch is a failure.
Whether this assumption is valid depends on the perception of the Solomon Islands held by Taiwanese. Private-sector exchanges between the two countries are rare, which is what happens with almost all of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. Why would Taiwanese think it is bad for the PRC to take over the ROC’s dollar-diplomacy burden?
Third, as the ROC’s diplomatic ties in the South Pacific Ocean and Central America are maintained with taxpayers’ money, the nation is helping the US safeguard its front and backyard and is preventing a complete Chinese expansion.
This is why US President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly acted as mediator when China has poached Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in recent years.
Put another way, this is a wrestling match between the US and China, and Taiwan is only a shield. The past KMT government cared about the number of diplomatic allies for ideological reasons, but the DPP government should adopt new thinking and never rush ahead in the fight between the two giants.
Fourth, the key to Taiwan’s pragmatic diplomacy lies in the US, Japan and the EU. In recent years, Taiwan and the US have improved diplomatic relations and boosted arms sales. Whenever China is provoked, its revenge does not weaken these relations, it simply helps Taiwan terminate its outdated “spendthrift diplomacy.”
Fifth, with the CCP passing the ball to the KMT ahead of the presidential election, the KMT has no choice but to catch it. Apart from criticizing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), saying she has created a Boxer Rebellion-style confrontation, the KMT merely called on China not to poach diplomatic allies.
Was this knee-jerk reflex better than Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (林鄭月娥) reaction to the Hong Kong protests? Opinion polls are not needed to show that the KMT’s response went completely against mainstream opinion. When China passed the ball to the KMT, it took it straight to the face.
Why does the CCP’s confusion over Taiwan increase? It could be because of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) increasingly authoritarian and isolated regime, which forces Chinese officials to do evil just to curry favor with him. This collective mindset is hurting Taiwan’s pro-China camp. Who can keep a straight face thinking about this?
Tzou Jiing-wen is the editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).
Translated by Eddy Chang
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