EDITORIAL: Friendship trumps insolent attitude

Sun, Sep 09, 2018 - Page 6

A stubborn and smug China — at odds with the international community — presents Taiwan with an important opportunity.

On Tuesday, Chinese delegates stormed out of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru after the Chinese ambassador to Fiji was prevented from speaking out of order at a meeting on climate change. Because Nauru has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, not China, Nauruan President Baron Divavesi Waqa also refused to allow the passports of the Chinese delegation to be stamped.

Other forum member nations, some of whom have diplomatic ties with Beijing, expressed dissatisfaction with Waqa.

“Your unilateral action as president of Nauru is a dangerous precedent that I believe may not be accepted by forum leaders,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi wrote in a letter obtained by Agence France-Presse.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said that Waqa was “violating international norms and the rules of the forum.”

The “international norms” to which Hua was referring are rather vague, but it is obvious how China would react if the Nauruan ambassador to Taiwan attempted to usurp Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a climate change meeting in Beijing.

China usually wants to be treated as an equal by other powerful nations, but it sometimes insists on more than that — particularly when international procedures run contrary to its interests.

Seeking to characterize China’s bullying of international airlines, a July 26 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune said: “We’re searching for a description of the Chinese government’s behavior and can’t decide among bullying, extortion or coercion.”

US President Donald Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to China’s actions as “Orwellian nonsense.”

For much of its history, China demanded “tribute” from its neighbors, seeing itself as the center of the world order and the sole power that could bestow legitimacy on adjacent realms.

An article published on March 22 last year on the Foreign Policy Web site said that Xi aims to give Chinese a sense that China has returned to its “natural place” in the world order.

“The Xi Jinping government may be designing the post-globalization pattern of managed transnational spheres, and pioneering a financial and strategic role that few other countries seem even to envisage,” the article said, citing Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and other economic projects.

However, China’s neighbors have no desire to see a return to the past and are growing increasingly concerned over what they see as Chinese aggression.

China has had numerous border clashes with India and Bhutan; conducted naval drills that have upset Taiwan and Japan; clashed with Philippine and Indonesian fishermen in international waters; militarized the South China Sea; established a military base in Djibouti; and reportedly approached Vanuatu about establishing a military base in that nation, to the consternation of Australia and New Zealand.

China has also included Pacific island nations in its Belt and Road Initiative, which has already indebted several nations, forcing them to cede ownership of land or resources to China.

On Aug. 30, Reuters reported that the US, Australia, France and Britain have been watching the situation in the Pacific and plan to boost their presence in the region by adding embassies, increasing staff levels and raising investment.

The more China’s neighbors and their allies rise up to counter Beijing aggression, the more valuable Taiwan will become as a military and economic partner.

The nation must engage with its friends in East Asia and Oceania, and express its dedication to cooperating on regional stability and security.