Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Taiwan should tweak its Africa strategy: pundits

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Faced with China's diplomatic dominance in Africa, Taiwan cannot rely on winning allies through financial assistance, analysts said yesterday, adding that the nation should seek other forms of strategic partnership.

The first Taiwan-Africa Summit, held in Taipei on Sunday, attended by the nation's five African diplomatic allies, concluded with the signing of a declaration supporting Taiwan's efforts to gain entry to the UN.

Following the summit, the government hosted a Taiwan-African Progressive Partnership Forum, attracting representatives from 40 countries, 35 of which do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan and were pressured by China not to attend the event.

Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Africa are Malawi, Swaziland, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Sao Tome and Principe.

Commenting on why these countries had chosen to maintain ties with Taiwan instead of China, Soochow University political science professor Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said that they were all opposed to China's diplomatic strategy.

"The relationship between China and African countries is what critics call neo-colonialism," Lo said.

In exchange for securing energy and raw materials, Lo said China has been doling out aid and interest-free loans to African countries, Lo said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) promised to double China's aid to Africa from last year's level by 2009 at the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing last November.

The package included US$3 billion in loans, US$2 billion in export credits and a US$5 billion fund to encourage Chinese investment in Africa.

The Chinese also use the continent as a dumping ground for cheaply manufactured goods, Lo said, adding that China did not face complaints from African countries about poor quality, unlike the barrage of complaints it receives from Western countries.

While China has won many construction projects in Africa and created some jobs there, they often import their own workers.

Yen Chen-shen (嚴震生), a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, said that African countries without diplomatic relations with Taiwan could be divided into five different categories.

Some of the countries are caught in bloody civil wars and require UN peace-keeping forces. China, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, can use its veto power on peace-keeping issues as leverage with those countries.

This was what led Liberia to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China in October 2003, Yen said.

The second group consists of countries rich in natural resources such as Sudan, Chad and Nigeria. Chad, rich in petroleum reserves, recognized China last year. China's African allies provide it with 25 percent of its oil imports.

With a phenomenal economic growth rate of 9 percent per annum, oil imports accounted for 47 percent of China's total consumption in the first half of last year.

Countries with an ambition to gain international influence comprise the third group, Yen said. Senegal, which ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in October 2005, has replaced the Ivory Coast as the leading French-speaking force on the continent since the latter's political situation worsened in September 2002.

Countries that are too big for Taiwan to handle make up the fourth group, Yen said. Nigeria, for example, has a population six times that of Taiwan and a land area 22 times bigger.

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