Money diplomacy contest between democracy, authoritarianism: envoy

09/17/2019 04:58 PM
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Brussels, Sept. 16 (CNA) China's ongoing money diplomacy to snatch away Taiwan's diplomatic allies is not merely a diplomatic competition between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait but also a competition between China's model of authoritarian government and Western-style democracy, according to Taiwan's top envoy to the European Union.

The country's top envoy to the EU, Tseng Ho-jen (曾厚仁), made the remarks when asked to comment on the severing of ties between Taiwan and the Solomon Islands, in the wake of the Pacific country's decision Monday to switch allegiance to Beijing.

The switch has led to concern in the western world, which has gradually found that cross-strait competition does not concern Taiwan and China only.

In fact, it reflects a bigger picture of the competition of different political systems -- namely, China's model of authoritarian government and Western-style democracy, Tseng said.

Tseng, whose office represents Taiwan's interests in the EU in the absence of official diplomatic ties, said that although European countries are far from the Indo-Pacific region, they stand alongside the United States and have raised concerns over Beijing's continuous efforts to change the cross-strait status quo by snatching away more of Taiwan's allies.

Before the Solomon Islands' Monday decision, a number of senior EU officials had warned Taiwan of the Pacific country's possible switch during meetings with their Taiwanese counterparts over the past few weeks.

These are rare moves for EU officials, since they usually do not play an active role in helping Taiwan keep its diplomatic allies, the officials said.

However, over the past weeks, the EU has expressed concern over the issue and has shown support toward Taiwan, the officials added.

On Monday, Taiwan announced its decision to cut diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands as the South Pacific island-nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing earlier that day.

The Solomon Islands' Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement voted 27-0, with six abstentions, to establish diplomatic ties with China that day.

The severing of ties leaves Taiwan with only 16 diplomatic allies.

Commenting on the switch, Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said it is worth noting that unlike other former allies that chose to cut ties with Taiwan, the Solomon Islands made public the switch debate for months before the final decision this week.

The Solomon Islands has been assessing its relations with Taiwan since Sogavare took office after a general election in April.

Also, other major powerhouses and benefactors in the region, including the U.S., Japan and Australia, had all publicly urged the Solomon Islands not to make the switch for a long period of time, according to Huang.

But all these efforts were still unable to keep the Pacific nation on the Taiwan side.

According to Huang, this shows that China's decades-long efforts in South Pacific are bearing fruit.

"Taiwan needs to come up with a better strategy on how to keep its diplomatic allies," he noted.

The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all been doing their best to help Taiwan keep the ex-ally by promising more assistance to help the country's infrastructure programs but to no avail.

Japan has shown rare concern following the switch.

Through its de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, a press statement was released after learning of the severing of ties.

In the statement, the association called on both sides of the strait to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve their disputes and that Japan is paying close attention to the matter.

Meanwhile, Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a former director of National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, told CNA that the U.S. and Australia are helping Taiwan for their own interests, because they are unhappy to see China's growing military presence in the region.

The Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia, is situated in a strategically important location in the South Pacific, Ding said.

Now that the Solomon Islands has decided to formed ties with China, it will very likely lead to Beijing establishing a military base there, causing a problem to both the U.S. and Australia in the region, he added.

The Solomon Islands is the sixth diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May 2016.

Beijing has taken a hardline stance on cross-strait relations since Tsai refused as president to accept the "1992 consensus," a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and the Chinese government.

Under the consensus, both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is only "one China" with each side free to interpret what "China" means, according to the KMT interpretation. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of that interpretation.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Ku Chuan, Matt Yu, Elaine Hou, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Joseph Yeh)


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