President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday said that the “checkbook diplomacy” Taiwan was once criticized for has long been a thing of the past.
“Checkbook diplomacy, in its conventional definition, ended a long time ago, and no longer exists,” Tsai said when asked by reporters if she would make her stance clear to avoid being criticized.
Taiwan has become a very different nation, and many things need to meet regulatory requirements and be examined by the legislature, so it should no longer be an issue, the president said.
There might have been some diplomatic practices that faced criticism in the past, when the nation was in a difficult situation, she told reporters traveling with her on her first overseas trip since taking office.
Citing Paraguay as an example, Tsai said she announced only two new policies during her visit — one being the doubling to 28 of the number of students to be admitted to a scholarship program to study in Taiwan, the other being further raising import quotas for beef from the South American country.
“If I did not tell you about any other issues, that means there is nothing to tell,” she said.
The president also commented on responses to events during her visit to the country, where she attended the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, before traveling to Paraguay.
She said Panama had already informed her that the first ship to sail through the expanded canal is owned by Beijing-based China Ocean Shipping Co, and added that the Central American ally handled the matter in an honest and mature manner.
“[Panama] invited me and also invited the leader of mainland China. They [Panama] expressed their concern about relations across the Taiwan Strait, and expressed the hope that they can do something to help maintain peace and stability between the two sides,” she said.
She also said there is no need for a political interpretation of her signing “President of Taiwan (ROC)” [Republic of China] in a visitor’s book on Sunday during a tour of the expanded Panama Canal.
The choice of signature was blasted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and several other KMT politicians, who said ROC should have come first, followed by Taiwan in the parentheses.
“I was elected by the 23 million people of this country, so it is not inappropriate to call myself president of Taiwan,” Tsai said, adding that on formal occasions, it is clear that the ROC will be listed before Taiwan.
Earlier that day, Tsai witnessed a donation by the Asus Foundation of 400 laptops and tablets to public elementary schools in Paraguay, before attending a banquet hosted by Asociacion Rural del Paraguay, where she was joined by Paraguayan Vice President Juan Eudes Afara Maciel.
She visited an animal feed factory, and attended the opening ceremony of an orchid sales center, both of which are part of a cooperation program between Taiwan and Paraguay.
The president was scheduled to wrap up her visit yesterday and fly to Los Angeles for a transit stop on her way home.
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