Mon, Oct 16, 2017 - Page 6

Broadening our support base

The contrast could not be starker: During Helsinki Design Week, temporary housing built by refugees using a design by Taiwanese architect Hsieh Ying-chun (謝英俊) was opened on Sept. 15. Lawmakers from the Green Party, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party participated in the event.

Three weeks later, a reception hosted by Taiwan’s diplomatic mission was also attended by lawmakers, but this time from the Center Party, the National Coalition Party and the so-called Finns Party.

While I appreciate the interest in Taiwan from both the liberal-left and the center-right, I am puzzled why there was no overlap: particularly why no one from the left attended the diplomatic reception. Maybe this is too small a sample from which to extrapolate, but it is hardly pure coincidence.

During the Cold War, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government fostered relations with right-wing contacts through the World Anti-Communist League and the International Democrat Union. The KMT saw the political left worldwide as fellow-travelers of communists and treated them with suspicion.

However, Taiwan is no longer under the KMT regime. Instead, it has a new source of legitimacy — that of popular suffrage and electoral democracy. As a vibrant democracy with a strong civil society, Taiwan needs the widest possible support from across the political spectrum globally.

The Taiwanese deserve the sympathy of politicians of all ideological hues who support governance by the ballot box.

Should not the Democratic Progressive Party administration reach out to friends in left-liberal parties, to lay the groundwork for further participation in the international community?

There is certainly interest in Taiwan from such politicians, too: This is evidenced by their participation at Hsieh’s event. They will not shy away from getting involved if Taiwan’s case is skillfully explained to them.

Thankfully, the civil society and Taiwan’s expatriate communities are already steps ahead of the government. Organizations such as the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in North America and Taiwan Corner in Europe have years of networking and lobbying experience ready for Taiwan’s diplomats to tap into.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier William Lai (賴清德) simply have to reorient the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and broaden the perspective of the diplomatic service.

Te Khai-su

Helsinki, Finland