China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 8, 2016
Executive Summary: When Tsai Ing-wen was elected president, she issued the DPP three words of advice: "Humility, humility, and more humility”. Sad to say, the DPP has failed to practice humility in either domestic or international affairs. Instead, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a mockery of the term. Preserving ROC diplomatic achievements is not easy. We would remind President Tsai and the DPP government president to exercise caution. Do not treat such matters of importance as child's play!
Full Text Below:
Our diplomatic plight is well known. Even observer status or associate member status in international organizations is difficult to obtain. We lack diplomatic relations with nearly all the world's major nations. It is all we can do to maintain unofficial relations and economic and trade exchanges. The government and the private sector, working together and doing its utmost, may be able to maintain the status quo and preserve our existing diplomatic arrangements. But the new government is not content with our existing diplomatic arrangements. In the absence of a consensus, the new government is doing its utmost to change them. The risk is great. Opposition parties and the public have criticized the new government's moves. But they have remained on the sidelines and allowed the new government to make the attempt.
Recently however, a string of diplomatic debacles have shocked, disappointed, and alarmed concerned parties. The new government's ambitions exceed its abilities. It approaches problems rashly. It revels in special privilege. It is gradually losing peoples' hearts and minds. The consequences are spreading from internal affairs to foreign affairs, and will eventually lead to diplomatic disaster.
The most outrageous diplomatic debacle was the arrest of Chiang Chun-nan, our new Representative to Singapore, for drunk driving. Singapore is one of the ROC's most important allies. The two nations have never enjoyed formal diplomatic relations. But in our interactions with either the Mainland or with Southeast Asian countries, Singapore has long played a key role. Such a diplomatic post requires the best possible representative. It requires someone who understands the importance of diplomacy. Such a position must not be viewed as mere political patronage.
Chiang Chun-nan is a veteran journalist. He once served as deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council. His analyses and commentaries on international relations and politics have long stood out. That much is indisputable. But he lacks diplomatic connections. Singapore requires flexibility and communications abilty. Is Chiang truly qualified? Even before his appointment, he was arrested for drunk driving. For a diplomat, this is no trivial matter. Singapore and the ROC both detest drunk driving. In Singapore the offense is punishable by caning. But on Taiwan, military personnel, civil servants, and public school teachers are usually given a demerit and transferred. Chiang Chun-nan was arrested for drunk driving in Singapore. What sort of impression did that convey? The answer is self-evident.
Worse still, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee had the gall to argue that local Singapore newspapers claimed that the Singaporean government failed to comment on the incident. Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs judge the political situation based on local newspaper reports? Does diplomacy involve waiting for the other party to explicitly voice its dissatisfaction before we make a decision? The new government is treating international diplomacy as if it were a children's game. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should confirm the Singaporean government's response through diplomatic channels. Only then should it issue a public statement. Only that is prudent. Only then can the public trust statements issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The second most outrageous diplomatic incident took place in the Legislative Yuan. Su Chia-chuan led a delegation to Japan, the first since taking office. He sought to promote goodwill between lawmakers from Taiwan and Japan. But the media revealed a problem. Su failed to distinguish between public and private interests, and exhibited unbridled greed. Japan is an important ally of the ROC, second only to the United States. It is also a pillar of the new government's foreign policy. Leave aside the merits of this policy for the moment. Since the new government has adopted this policy, politicians' exchanges with Japan should be conducted with care. The Japanese are extremely fastidious. They pay close attention to etiquette. Their diplomacy affairs involves even shrewder calculations. Legislative Speaker Su led the new government's first delegation to Japan. The DPP should have paid strict attention to Japanese concerns. It should have instilled Japanese trust the DPP and a willingness to treat the DPP as a strategic partner.
But Su Chia-chuan's delegation to Japan violated diplomatic protocol, by taking family members along. He also violated protocol for official trips. He revealed the DPP legislators' frivolousness, negligence, and lack of discipline. The legislators argued that their relatives and friends paid their own way. But relatives and friends affected the official visit. They received VIP treatment that should have been reserved for diplomatic personnel. They had the red carpet rolled out before them. This failure to distingush between public and private matters, gave grave offense. Legislators brought entire families to official functions. They failed to grasp the most basic rules of etiquette. When Overseas Chinese hosted banquets for legislative delegations, the DPP was even more ignorant. Many brought entire families along with them. Did they really want to embarrass the host, by forcing him to make clear that non-officials and family members were not included? Do our legislators have any sense of propriety?
During this debacle, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission failed to properly advise legislators. They even pulled strings, and urged Overseas Chinese to include non-officials and family members. How was this perceived by the public? That should be self-evident. They treated such matters as child's play. Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh actually returned to Taiwan in order to deal with DPP party elections. DPP Legislator Su Chih-fen actually gained entry to Vietnam on a tourist visa in order to promote Taiwan's tourism industry, straining relations between Taiwan and Vietnam. These too were diplomatic debacles that treated such matters as child's play.
Diplomacy is realpolitik. For the ROC, diplomacy is about us seeking favors from others, not others seeking favors from us. That said, diplomacy does not mean we must grovel. As long as we conduct our diplomacy with care, in a reasonable manner, we will be respected. Alas, our Representative to Singapore's drunk driving, our legislative delegation's failure to distinguish between public and private matters during its visit to Japan, as well Frank Hsieh and Su Chih-fen's gaffes, reveal only crudity, negligence, and carelessness.
When Tsai Ing-wen was elected president, she issued the DPP three words of advice: "Humility, humility, and more humility”. Sad to say, the DPP has failed to practice humility in either domestic or international affairs. Instead, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a mockery of the term. Preserving ROC diplomatic achievements is not easy. We would remind President Tsai and the DPP government president to exercise caution. Do not treat such matters of importance as child's play!