Based on my experience as a Taiwanese married to a Nicaraguan, the severance of diplomatic relations between Managua and Taipei reflects not so much China’s threat to Taiwan, but China’s threat to the world.
Since Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega returned to power at the end of 2006, he has managed to hold on to the presidency by amending the constitution to allow the president to be re-elected without restrictions. Blackouts would happen at polling stations during a presidential election, and when the light came back on, it would turn out that Ortega was re-elected — again and again.
He has been president for 15 years, and there might be 20 more to come.
The dictatorship of the ruling party has reached a point where the party flag and the national flag are placed together at the entrances of government offices.
Three years ago, Nicaraguans could not take it anymore, when failed pension reform policy became a flashpoint. In the face of mass protests, Ortega instituted a curfew, strictly controlled the media, imprisoned dissidents and even let the police shoot at protesters. Being virtually under martial law, and then hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicaragua is facing a serious brain drain — those who are capable have left for other countries.
The corruption and incompetence of Ortega has already dragged down the country’s politics and economy. Losing the support of the US has driven Nicaragua to seek help from China.
Taiwanese need not rush to blame themselves for the severance of ties. First, Nicaraguan politics have their own fundamental and structural problems — almost like Taiwan during the Martial Law era — and there would be no turnaround in the foreseeable future.
Second, Nicaragua switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing is actually an extension of a global tug-of-war between the US and China. The tension between the superpowers has become the main focus of world politics, in which Taiwan — which still uses the name Republic of China — is a litmus test for the international political environment.
Is this the miserable fate that Taiwanese should just accept and allow to happen over and over again? Facing all kinds of unreasonable demands from China, many countries just want to appease Beijing. Taiwanese know better than anyone that tolerating China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy would end up harming Taiwan and the international community.
For example, to avoid upsetting the Chinese Communist Party, countries have to ban news or discussions about concentration camps in Xinjiang, Tibetan independence, Taiwanese independence and COVID-19. What will be the next red line that cannot be crossed?
China made an example of Far Eastern Group’s Far East New Century and Asia Cement on Nov. 22. Who will be next?
Be aware that sitting around and doing nothing, or conforming to China’s wishes is awaiting doom.
In addition to making good use of Taiwan’s advantages in the semiconductor industry, the nation should strive to become a key influencer and key player in more fields. This is the real way out for Taiwan.
Remember that this is not the first time Nicaragua has turned toward China. In 2014, with the help of Chinese capital, Nicaragua claimed that it would build a canal to allow its freight volume to surpass that of the Panama Canal. With a claimed US$50 billion investment, only a 10km road was built, and the Chinese contractor ended up abandoning the project and fleeing, making this “project” an international scandal.
Katia Lin works for a non-governmental organization.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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