President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the importance of his visit to three of the nation’s allies in Africa, brushing aside the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) criticism of the trip and urging the opposition parties to recognize the government’s efforts at expanding Taiwan’s international profile.
Ma and his delegation are on a 12-day visit to three of Taiwan’s African allies.
The DPP has branded Ma’s first trip to Africa since taking office in 2008 “chicken rib diplomacy (雞肋外交).”
Ma responded to the criticism first on his Facebook page and then at a press conference in Banjul, the Gambia, yesterday, adding that he hoped a new DPP chairperson would be willing to discuss diplomatic issues more rationally.
“The DPP has served in government, so why would it describe our allies as insignificant? Both Burkina Faso and the Gambia have promised to support Taiwan’s efforts to participate in the World Health Organization and other international organizations. Are such efforts insignificant?” he asked on his Facebook page.
Ma also dismissed criticism of a US$3 million donation to the Gambia as “checkbook diplomacy,” saying that it was the nation’s responsibility as a member of the international community to provide humanitarian aid. He said the donation was made to help with a serious food shortage in the Gambia caused by drought in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Ma reiterated the government’s efforts to expand the nation’s international profile at a press conference.
“The government is confronted with the same challenges, problems and global situations regardless of which party is in power, and we must find a way to maintain positive relations with the US, Japan, China, Europe and other countries,” he said. “I hope the election for a new DPP chairperson is successful and that the new party leader will have a broader vision and seek consensus with the government.”
Taiwan Solidarity Union legislative caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said that since taking office in 2008, Ma had downgraded Taiwan’s international status by adopting a pro-China stance and promoting a “diplomatic truce.”
“The criticism of Ma’s diplomacy was aimed at his itinerary, not the nation’s allies,” Hsu said.
Taiwan should look to the needs of diplomatic allies by providing long-term medical treatment and collaborating on agricultural technology, rather than having Ma hand out money like Santa Claus, or flying half way around the world to jog, do push-ups, carry sacks of rice or play with yo-yos, Hsu added.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer