Diplomatic Relations: A Common Asset
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 17, 2012
Summary: The Republic of China's participation in the activities of the
international community is relevant to everyone's welfare, to our
nation's survival, and to our continued prosperity. Foreign aid must be
subject to reasonable oversight and effective supervision. Foreign aid
that must be spent, should be spent. The Republic of China's foreign aid
provided the children of Burkina Faso with solar powered table lamps,
enabling them to do their homework. If the Republic of China can ignite a
few lamps, and increase the amount of light and warmth in the world,
what's wrong with that?
Full Text below:
Today, President Ma Ying-jeou concluded his Voyage of Friendship visit to Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Swaziland. This is the sixth state visit he has embarked upon since taking office. This is the first time he has visited Africa. His visit bolstered ties between the Republic of China and her African allies. It gave the public an opportunity to understand the upside of the Republic of China's friendly relations with others.
The visit included a great deal of diplomatic protocol. It also included a great deal of interaction with the local population. It enabled President Ma to show the public on Taiwan how our support for the local populace was actually helping people. It enabled everyone to see that our money was doing many positive things. President Ma and other heads of state even did push-ups, hauled bags of rice, and otherwise entertained themselves. Their interactions brought the two sides closer together.
Unfortunately, opposition DPP legislators have been sniping at Ma's diplomatic truce. They claim that Taipei has become a vassal of Beijing. They claim that the visit was pointless. During the visit, Ma announced that we were providing them with financial assistance. Meanwhile, back home, the government raised gasoline and electricity prices. It imposed a capital gains tax, This invited criticism. President Ma's overseas trip was rushed. Yet he felt compelled to respond from time to time through facebook.
It is true that the Republic of China does not have many allies in Africa. They are having a difficult time with economic development. Their living standards are not as high as Taiwan's. Some on Taiwan may look down their noses at these tiny allies. Subconsciously, we feel more than just a sense of superiority. The only nations willing to establish diplomatic relations with us are small and poor. In order to maintain diplomatic relations with them, we are forced to provide them with economic resources. As a result, we feel low self-esteem. We feel humiliated. We feel resentful. Our resentment distorts the way we perceive our allies and the foreign aid we provide them.
The fact is, exchanges between members of the international community have always been based on mutual benefit, cooperation, and quid pro quo relationships. Cooperation must be beneficial to all, Only by benefiting others, can one obtain others' cooperation. Only by benefiting oneself, can one make sure that cooperation is worthwhile. What each country wants and what each country is able to give, are not the same thing. Both sides must communicate with each other, consult with each other, bargain with each other. They must seek the optimum conditions for exchanges. Only then can they reach a cooperative arrangement.
Under international law, the Republic of China government needs diplomatic recognition to support its claim as a sovereign state. It makes no difference that we enjoy diplomatic relations with only 20 odd states. That is enough to provides international proof of our sovereign status. That is enough to ensure votes or expressions of solidarity during our calls for participation in international organizations. Diplomacy is a common asset that must be cultivated regardless which party one belongs to. To use the epithet "pointless" to describe our diplomacy or our allies, demonstrates a lack of respect for this essential national asset.
The Republic of China has been isolated by the international community. But it seeks to return to the international community. The Republic of China hopes to regain international recognition and respect. As a member of the international community, we have exceptional economic strength. Living standards are relatively high. We have the wherewithal to provide economic support for our allies. We have the wherewithal to contribute to the welfare of the disadvantaged. These are all worthwhile assets.
We have sought participation in international activities for many years, including the Conference on International Cooperation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Republic of China has contributed to charitable activities in many countries, not just our diplomatic allies. Self interest is often the prime consideration in international politics. But many other activities are rooted in human compassion and transcend politics. This is exactly how friendship and mutual understanding take root.
The Republic of China hopes to participate in the activities of the international community. Therefore we must demonstrate that we are a developed nation that can make a positive contribution to others. That will enable us to join. The international community will receive real benefits. If the Republic of China is democratic, open, and willing to give back the international community, it will be affirmed by the international community. If we wish to return to the international arena, but are unwilling to contribute, how can we convince others to let us join? The OECD requires foreign aid expenditures amounting to 0.28% of GDP. Our government's foreign aid expenditures amount to only 0.10% of GDP. The fact is our contributions are still too small.
Domestic prices are rising at the moment. That is why our foreign aid has provoked controversy. Scare resources may have a crowding out effect. But these are matters that must not be conflated. Our financial structure needs improvement. It must reflect costs. We must make taxes more equitable. We must ensure long term fiscal stability. Only then can the ship of state operate smoothly. Only then can we improve foreign relations, enhance the Republic of China's international image, and safeguard her sovereignty and dignity. These are all equally important.
The Republic of China's participation in the activities of the international community is relevant to everyone's welfare, to our nation's survival, and to our continued prosperity. Foreign aid must be subject to reasonable oversight and effective supervision. Foreign aid that must be spent, should be spent. The Republic of China's foreign aid provided the children of Burkina Faso with solar powered table lamps, enabling them to do their homework. If the Republic of China can ignite a few lamps, and increase the amount of light and warmth in the world, what's wrong with that?