Foreign Diplomacy Must Be Neither Blue nor Green
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 26, 2010
A Republic of China airliner donated to Panama for the purpose of disaster relief, is now being used as the Panamanian president's personal airliner. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has submitted a special report to the Control Yuan. The Control Yuan says our government was clearly duped. But it has urged both the Blue and Green parties to maintain a united diplomatic front. That is not merely how the Control Yuan sees it. That is also how the public sees it.
Frankly, the airliner misuse incident took us to the cleaners. The airliner was a donation, intended for disaster relief. But the president of Panama said he needed it for himself, even when it was needed for disaster relief. Since it was a gift, our government has no right to demand its return. It would be difficult to force the Panamanin president to use it as intended. If the Panamanian legislature or judiciary investigate, the government can of course explain the situation and provide information. Otherwise there is little it can do. Governments and politicians in Latin America are considerably less evolved than they are in more advanced nations. The ROC government looks askance at widespread corruption within these nations. Especially when their politicians embezzle foreign aid we have provided. It is even more intolerable that such corruption has given us a bad name. We have no desire to precipitate a show down and invite a backlash. Also, other politicians may not be any better. We could end up offending the current leader, when his replacements are no better. If the problem is not too serious, it is better to maintain the relationship, as long as it remains within tolerable limits. Therefore the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may have been disgruntled, but reacted in a low-keyed manner.
In fact, ever since Taipei and Beijing implemented their "diplomatic truce," the two sides have had a tacit understanding not to recruit the other's diplomatic allies. Governments hoping to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing have been rebuffed. In this regard, Beijing has indeed demonstrated genuine goodwill. Some governments don't understand this new form of cross-Strait interaction. They still resort to blackmail in attempts to extract concessions from Taipei. When they can't, they are shocked and disappointed. Taipei has examined its past practices. It is no longer willing to issue blank checks or swallow its pride. Requests for assistance require the submission of detailed plans. Economic aid requires closer monitoring and greater transparency. These changes require closer communication. They require support from each other's legislatures, citizenry, media, and judiciaries. Only then can we lay a foundation for diplomatic relations between two countries. Only then can we check and balance politicians' empty words or attempts at defamation.
The Control Yuan understands the government's diplomatic quandary. The Blue and Green camps must present a unified front to the outside world. They must not use diplomatic controversies to divide or embarrass society. Many people feel the same way. Taipei and Beijing have declared a temporary cease fire in their battle for Latin American diplomatic allies. The Republic of China's diplomatic service is no longer in constant fear of losing diplomatic allies. It no longer needs to nervously tally up its diplomatic allies. This is because Bejing has eased up, not because the cross-Strait strategic picture has changed. Perhaps over time, the international community will arrive at a new perspective. But a change has yet to occur. Taipei's status on the international stage remains inferior to Beijing's. Beijing's economic strength has also been elevated, relatively speaking, as a result of the global recession. This is the Big Picture Taipei faces. It will be the same no matter who comes to power, Blue or Green.
Behind closed doors, we may engage in lively political debate. But when we throw the doors open to the outside world, Republic of China citizens must act in unision. We share the same fate, the same national interests, and the same vision. We all want a peaceful, secure, prosperous, and dignified environment in which to live. On this there is no difference between any of us. Any political party must subordinate itself to this imperative, and attempt to fulfill the people's basic desires. No political party should use the national interest as a tool for political struggle. They should understand how difficult international diplomacy is. They must not stand on the sidelines and engage in sniping.
Taipei's diplomatic predicament has its roots on the opposite shore. In order to make any breakthroughs, cross-Strait relations must change. A peaceful form of interaction must be found, allowing Taipei to survive and prosper. A truce is not a rest break. Taipei cannot afford to rest. Taipei may engage in cross-Strait reconciliation and attempt to bring countrymen on both sides closer together. But Taipei has no other bargaining chips that can persuade Beijing to maintain a diplomatic truce. The truce provides Taipei with precious time and space, to ensure its future survival. It enables Taipei to maintain its relationships with existing diplomatic allies. Taipei must also seek to return to the international scene. It must shift its energies from past cross-Strait and diplomatic struggles to something more meaningful. For example, we have postponed our efforts to rejoin the United Nations. We have attempted instead to participate in organizations on the periphery, such as those concerned with civil aviation and climate change. The public hopes that our diplomatic service will eventually have something to show for its efforts. Whether Taipei will once again be invited to the World Health Assembly in May as an observer is now the focus of attention.
When it comes to the national interest, there is no Blue or Green. This includes viable, synergistic cross-Strait relations. This includes public aspirations regarding diplomacy, economics, and public welfare. Such a goal may be easy to talk about. But it is one that politicians must take seriously.