While Taiwan is improving relations with central and eastern European countries, it should not generalize about countries that have varied political contexts, but find different ways to promote Taiwan’s culture, observers said.
Despite Poland’s donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, some have asked why Warsaw seems more politically reserved than the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia when it comes to support for the nation.
Its donation of vaccines shows its willingness to help Taiwan, but other factors, including that its donation was announced after other countries, should also be taken into account, Taiwanese writer and Polish literature translator Lin Wei-yun (林蔚昀) said.
Photo: Lin Chia-nan, Taipei Times
Poland’s ties with Taiwan should be examined in tandem with its relations with China, the EU, Russia and the US, said Lin, who studied at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and lived there for about 10 years before returning to Taiwan in 2016.
In February, she received a notice from the Chinese Ministry of Justice, which transferred legal documents from a court in Krakow to her, she said.
The court asked her to find someone who could help collect her mail in Poland, as she and her Polish husband were going through paperwork and procedures for their company, she said.
The court cited the Hague Service Convention when explaining why it had delivered the documents via China, but the move infringed on their legal rights and Taiwan’s sovereignty, Lin said.
This incident shows that Taiwan and Poland need another cooperation agreement for civil matters, just like the agreement on legal cooperation in criminal matters was prompted by the need to tackle a Taiwanese fraud ring in Poland, she said.
By signing the agreement on criminal justice cooperation, Poland showed that it wants to cooperate with Taiwan, said Anna Rudakowska, a Polish associate professor at Tamkang University, in a written response to questions from the Taipei Times.
“This move clearly fits into the most recent change of Western attitudes towards China. Because if you discuss the relations between Taiwan and the EU or the US, you cannot take China out of the picture,” she said.
Poland is the fifth-biggest EU member in terms of population size, she said, adding that Poland needs the US for security reasons, and it is a loyal political and military supporter of Washington’s international initiatives.
The central and eastern European (CEE) members of the EU used to be enthusiastic about the prospect of economic cooperation within China’s Belt and Road Initiative and within the “16+1” and, later, the “17+1” format, she said.
“Today, their attitudes have shifted,” she said, adding that except for Hungary and Serbia, all countries in the region are skeptical about China and disappointed with the results of this cooperation.
“Still, we should not generalize about the CEE countries when it comes to their relations with Taiwan [or] China. They have different history, interests and political realities, which inform their choices also on the international stage,” she said.
While Poland and Taiwan have maintained cooperation in various sectors, “we have to be realistic” when it comes to how much further other countries can go to express support for Taiwan under China’s pressure, she said.
Nonetheless, Taiwan has room to increase its international space, she said, “in particular now, it should take advantage of the international backlash building up against China to win the hearts and minds of the people abroad.”
The key for Taiwan is to expand areas of cooperation with other countries and continue its practice of non-official contact while looking for more non-traditional ways to enhance its international cooperation, she said.
Taipei should continue to stress the practical benefits for its people and other countries if it were to participate in international bodies such as the WHO, she added.
Over the past year, Polish media outlets have produced more positive reports about Taiwan and its COVID-19 response measures, rather than portraying it as part of China, or a better China, Lin said.
Building on its acclaimed response to the virus, Taiwan should promote its other strengths, such as democratic values, and LGBT and women’s rights, she added.
Lin said she worked at a Confucius Institute at Jagiellonian University from 2007 to 2009, but did not reflect on the effects of cultural infiltration until she left the job.
Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower movement revolutionized her perspective on cross-strait relations and she has since become more vigilant regarding the danger of overreliance on China, she said.
She said she is working on a book about dozens of places in Poland that have the word “Formosa” in their name, with the aim of shedding new light on bilateral relations.
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