A US newspaper has sharply contrasted the differences in treatment accorded Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang when he visited the US earlier this month and what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will receive during a planned stopover next month.
“The president of Vietnam was received at the White House by [US] President [Barack] Obama with all the pomp and circumstance,” an opinion piece in USA Today said this week.
Ma, the newspaper said, “was not welcome in Washington at all.”
He will be touching down in New York, en route to Paraguay where he will be an honored guest for the inauguration of that nation’s new president.
“In New York, President Ma will be whisked off as quickly and quietly as possible to an undisclosed hotel where folks into whose ears his arrival has been whispered will be allowed to pay him a stealth visit,” USA Today said.
The newspaper emphasized that there would be no press conference and not even a press release on Ma’s visit.
The officials at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, when queried, “simply raise a single finger to their lips,” the newspaper said.
On his return trip, Ma will “repeat the same stealth-style visit” during an overnight stopover in Los Angeles.
The paper says the reason for the great difference in treatment between Vietnam and Taiwan is that “China would not be happy” if Ma was shown a red carpet.
“Beijing doesn’t regard Taiwan as a country, its president as worthy of a state visit,” USA Today said.
“Even a trip to Washington is far too fraught with potential political symbolism,” it said.
“China is trying gamely to ease Taiwan ever so closely into a bear-hug as just another province,” the newspaper said. “And it seems to be working. Earlier this year, again with little fanfare, the mainland [China] currency, the renminbi, became freely convertible with the New Taiwan Dollar, easing the travels of Chinese and Taiwanese tourists and businessmen who shuttle with increasing frequency between the two territories.”
The newspaper said that “this is in sharp contrast” to the tense standoffs that punctuated the depths of the Cold War when the Taiwan Strait was “bristling with armaments.”
It says that Taiwan has managed to maintain “a semblance of independence,” but that China is increasingly “calling the tune.”
Written by David Andelman, the editor of World Policy Journal, the op-ed concludes: “For the moment, everyone is tiptoeing on eggshells.
“There are still those who see Taiwan as the last tiny corner of freedom in a Chinese communist universe. But Taiwan’s president in Washington? One step too far. Taiwan as the last tiny corner of freedom in a Chinese communist universe. But Taiwan’s president in Washington? One step too far,” it says.