Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega reportedly stood President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) up five times during his recent trip to Latin America. This has caused a chorus of criticism from both the ruling and opposition parties.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators suggested that the government recall the nation’s ambassador to Nicaragua, while opposition lawmakers blamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for neglecting its duties. Both the ambassador to Nicaragua and Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) should be held responsible for the entire affair.
Regardless of whether the incident was a result of Ortega’s disdain for Taiwan or the ministry’s negligence, the entire incident showed the major flaws behind Ma’s diplomatic strategy of placing more importance on cross-strait relations than on relations with other countries.
Just because cross-strait relations have improved does not mean Taiwan’s diplomatic relations have been secured. Whether the government keeps its mind on maintaining its relations with other countries is the decisive factor.
Since Ma gave precedence to cross-strait relations over Taiwan’s ties with other countries and declared a diplomatic truce with China, we have had a constant problem: How does the government view Taiwan’s diplomatic allies? Do we still value our relations with them?
In his first visit to Latin America last August, Ma was asked by the Honduran vice president how he looked at bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, it was recently reported that the Honduran ambassador complained about how the Ma government failed to fulfill its promise on a cooperative project between the two countries.
Similar incidents have occurred among other foreign representatives in Taiwan.
During his most recent trip to Latin America, Ma failed to address bilateral cooperative policies with the region, nor did he expound on his expectations of the relationship.
Instead, he talked about the improvement of cross-strait relations and how Taiwan has become a key factor reassuring the US on cross-strait matters. He proclaimed that he employed “legitimate diplomacy” instead of “dollar diplomacy,” which implies that Taiwan’s allies are just a whole bunch of greedy hooligans asking for financial aid.
Not only were Latin American allies told what Taiwan expects from bilateral relations, but they were also humiliated by the Ma government over having received political contributions from the former Democratic Progressive Party administration.
In addition, Ma did not respect their delicate attitude toward the US. These countries are likely to take their relationship with Taiwan seriously.
The incident with Ortega displays the government’s passive management of the nation’s diplomatic relations, which is the direct cause of the problems Taiwan is experiencing in its relationship with Latin America.
The suggestion by some lawmakers that the government take revenge by suspending cooperative projects with Nicaragua highlighted Taiwan’s narrow-minded attitude toward its diplomatic allies.
Such an arrogant and unhealthy mindset has caused the government to behave abnormally in its diplomatic relations with other countries.
Diplomatic relations can only be maintained by the government’s active management. It cannot be replaced by cross-strait detente, nor will it be maintained based on Taiwanese contempt for its diplomatic allies.
Lai I-chung is director of foreign policy studies at Taiwan Thinktank.
TRANSLATED BY TED YANG