Fri, May 16, 2008 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Sichuan aid comes under scrutiny

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Money can't buy you love, but perhaps a donation of NT$2 billion (US$65 million) could buy goodwill from across the Taiwan Strait, and this is what some people are hoping as the government on Wednesday pledged to donate cash and relief aid to China.

However, some have sneered at what they see as a “political gesture,” saying that even with the large donation, Taiwanese should not hold their breath on any congenial returns from Beijing any time soon.

“China might return the favor one day if a major disaster strikes Taiwan, but we should not count on China’s friendliness on issues such as Taiwan’s international space and sovereignty just because we pledge to donate some money,” said Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), an Academia Sinica researcher, yesterday.

The government should also re-evaluate the vast difference between its aid to China and the US$200,000 for Cyclone Nargis victims in Myanmar, he said, urging the government not to apply double standards.

Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Chen Min-tong (陳明通) on Wednesday said that of the NT$2 billion, NT$800 million, comprising NT$700 million in cash and NT$100 million worth of food, would be sent to China as the first step in the government’s relief efforts.

Of the remaining NT$1.2 billion, the government would encourage public servants to donate a day’s salary, which would come to a approximately NT$200 million, with the remaining NT$1 billion “hopefully to be raised through donations by the public and businesses.”

Taiwan is so far the largest donor to the relief work.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday defended the government’s decision, saying that contrary to what some politicians have said, donating NT$7 million of the government reserve fund would not have any negative impact on Taiwan’s overall welfare.

“Taiwan was a recipient of the international community’s kindness,” he said. “Our decision to donate entirely stemmed from humanitarian concern. This is what Taiwan should do as part of the global community.”

However, Tung Li-wen (董立文), deputy director of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, panned the government for “missing the point because China does not need monetary donations.”

“China is extremely wealthy and this is evident in its large foreign deposit. What it really needs right now is people with search-and-rescue expertise. The government is making the wrong move by donating money. What we should ask for is permission for Taiwanese search-and-rescue teams to enter disaster stricken areas immediately,” he said.

Tung also drew attention to the government’s different treatments of the disasters in Myanmar and China. So far, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has only agreed to donate US$200,000 to relief efforts in Myanmar.

“If the fund is truly based on humanitarian concerns as the government has claimed, then why are Chinese lives more valuable than Burmese lives?” he asked.

Lin Chong-pin (林中斌), former deputy defense minister and president of the Foundation of International and Cross-Strait Studies, offered a different view.

“US$60 million sounds like a lot, but it is worth it because it would benefit the national interests of Taiwan by creating a stable cross-strait relationship,” he said.

Even if Beijing decides to reject Taiwan’s generous offer, the gesture “would have won the heart of the Chinese people,” he said.

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