As China turns the screws on the dwindling number of countries that recognize Taiwan, the Chen Shui-bian (
The first annual Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit in Palau is a perfect example. Chen on Sunday led a delegation to attend the one-day event in Palau. The nation and its six Pacific allies inked the Palau Declaration and agreed to pursue four goals highlighted in the Pacific Plan, as adopted by leaders at the 36th Pacific Islands Forum held in Papua New Guinea in October last year.
The four goals are economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security. To that end, the allies agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of economic development, capacity building, and society and culture.
They also acknowledged Taiwan as a sovereign nation whose right to participate in international organizations cannot be denied and agreed to support Taiwan's achievements in political democratization and economic development.
Since Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (
Lin Chen-wei (
"It is meaningless to talk about money, although it would be easy to give you a figure if all we wanted to do here was to randomly throw money away," he said. "The annual budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is NT$28 billion (US$875 million) and it would be impossible for them to put all of their eggs in one basket. Besides, the legislature would not allow them to do that."
The competition between China and Taiwan for recognition in the Pacific has worried analysts in the region, who fear it could increase political instability.
Impoverished island countries have swapped their allegiance between Beijing and Taipei over the years and have been adept at playing the two off against each other, winning handsome aid packages.
There have also been accusations that local politicians have been bribed for their support.
Analyzing the nation's diplomatic strategy, Lin said that the administration used to focus too much on the sovereignty issue and tended to ignore what the nation could do for its allies.
"What matters is not what we can get in return, but what we can do for them," he said. "There are various ways of conducting diplomatic work: leader diplomacy, public diplomacy, energy diplomacy and of course, checkbook diplomacy."
Despite China's relentless efforts to lure away Taiwan's diplomatic allies, Lin said he remains "hopelessly upbeat" about the nation's diplomatic prospects because Taiwan has more to offer than just money.
Former senior presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (
"They are not poor countries because they have ample oceanic resources," he said.
Koo, who invested in the Marshal Islands' fishing industry, said that it would be more practical for the Chen administration to help its allies become self-reliant, instead of just giving them money.