Taiwan's Ambassador to Panama Diego Chou was finally able to present his credentials to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli this week after six months in the post. The problem seems to have been resolved, but warning signs in the so-called "flexible diplomacy" adopted by President Ma Ying-jeou have emerged.
Although Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has reiteratedthat "money diplomacy" was not involved in bringing the matter to an end, it is still hard for the Taiwan people to buy that claim.
The diplomatic tug-of-war between Taiwan and China has apparently eased in recent years since Ma came up with the "flexible diplomacy" approach, but numerous challenges remain in Taiwan's political outreach.
First, excluding the "China factor," Taiwan still faces a complex environment in each of its diplomatic allies. For example, the problem in Panama was purely personal on the part of Martinelli. This clearly proves that Taiwan is confronting many risks when dealing with countries of that kind.
Second, Taiwan needs to further increase its presence in international organizations. Although Taiwan now is able to participate in World Health Assembly activities as an observer, it has yet to achieve the same status in other world bodies.
Despite support from the U. S. State Department and Congress,Taiwan’s bid to join the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) has aroused very little international attention.
Third, Taiwan has been slow to achieve free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries, except for the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China. Amid a global trend of FTAs, Taiwan risks being marginalized.
In the face of fierce international competition, Taiwan should open up and explore more opportunities.
Instead of counting on "flexible diplomacy" to achieve diplomatic gains, Taiwan should create room for its itself in the international arena, step by step on its own strength. (Editorial abstract -- July 27, 2012)
(By Flor Wang)