President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) visit to Africa has been an example of his faulty perception of the essence of diplomacy, as well as his failure to recognize the threat posed by China, lawmakers and academics said yesterday.
“Ma should stop his ‘aerobic diplomacy’ and return to Taiwan as soon as possible to deal with the controversial fuel and electricity price hikes,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) told a press conference yesterday.
Ma is scheduled to return to Taiwan today after a 12-day visit to three of the country’s African allies: Burkina Faso, the Gambia and Swaziland.
Local media have described the trip as “aerobic diplomacy,” because the majority of media coverage of the visit showed Ma’s competition with heads of state in doing push-ups, sit-ups and running.
“While Ma is practicing his aerobic diplomacy, Taiwanese people are suffocating, because of the general hike in consumer goods prices triggered by the fuel and electricity price increases,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said, playing on the word “aerobic.”
There are more serious implications of the trip to be pondered, said Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠), a researcher at the Taiwan Brain Trust think tank.
The “aerobic visit” has been “ridiculously out of focus” because Ma was supposed to highlight the friendship between Taiwan and people of the countries he visited, rather than focus on his personal relationship with the countries’ leaders, Liu said.
Furthermore, Ma missed a great opportunity to solidify Taiwan’s presence in Africa, where Beijing has been flexing its diplomatic as well as economic muscles in recent years, Liu said.
China infiltrated the continent not only to get energy security and wield political influence, but also to get pledges of support for the “one China” principle from those countries receiving Chinese aid, he said.
Ma’s passive attitude toward diplomacy has hurt Taiwan’s international status and has impacted the regional balance of power and stability, Liu said.