United Daily News: Choosing a diplomatic role for Taiwan

2018/08/26 20:39:10 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Taiwan's Republic of China flag is seen waving near the Presidential Office in Taipei / CNA file photo

Taiwan's Republic of China flag is seen waving near the Presidential Office in Taipei / CNA file photo

Ever since 1979, when the United States established formal relations with China, Taiwan's trilateral relationship with the two superpowers has evolved due to circumstances in the Taiwan Strait.

Even though Taiwan plays the smallest role in this trilateral relationship, in the past this has varied from the "praying mantis," to "chess piece" and "lever."

The different role Taiwan chooses influences its relations with China.

Firstly, the praying mantis with its triangular head, bulging eyes and developed forelimbs may seem very intimidating to other insects. However, it is ultimately still an insect and weak when compared to other animals.

When a praying mantis comes across an animal that is stronger than itself, it must be careful not to underestimate its opponent.

A praying mantis / image taken from Pixabay

The danger of Taiwan playing the role of the praying mantis when dealing with the two superpowers is that if Taiwan's leaders do not face reality and are presumptuous enough to destabilize U.S.-China relations, the nation could be brought to the precipice of war.

Taiwan's second possible role is to be a chess piece, which is to be a good and faithful lapdog to the U.S. -- but that makes Taiwan pitiful.

Chess pieces / image taken from Pixabay

Taiwan has already lost the economic advantage it held for decades and no longer has the resources to compete with China in dollar diplomacy.

Playing the role of a chess piece may place Taiwan in a situation where it has to pay a heavy price when relations between China and the U.S. take a turn for the worse.

Finally, to play the role of a lever is to be impartial, which is a smart choice.

Levers / image taken from Pixabay

With the rise of China, Taiwan has limited capacity to exert power in foreign affairs and meeting force with force can only result in self harm. Therefore, Taiwan should seek to promote harmony and reconciliation in cross-strait relations and that requires courage and wisdom.

As a small country wishing to survive, playing the role of the lever is the path Taiwan should take, but that too is not without its own risks.

With regards the "1992 consensus," a tacit agreement reached by Taiwan and China during talks in Hong Kong in 1992, that there is only "one China" and each side is free to offer its own "interpretation" as to what that means, it has to be noted that Beijing is only willing to talk about "one China" and has no interest in "interpretations."

It is that position that leads the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan to not accept the consensus.

Perhaps this is also something China needs to consider because if it does not allow Taiwan to play the "lever" and continues to constrain Taiwan's diplomacy and reduce the meaning of the "1992 consensus," Beijing will find it even harder to win the hearts and minds of Taiwan's people.

On July 18, Taiwan's Minister of Mainland Affairs Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) on a visit to Washington proposed a candid and practical proposal for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to work out rules for orderly interaction.

Taiwan's Minister of Mainland Affairs Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) speaking in Washington / CNA file photo

Chen made his proposal at an international conference on "The Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-Strait Relations" sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

He noted that since taking office over two years ago, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has consistently handled cross-strait relations with pragmatism and in accordance with the ROC Constitution, the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and other relevant legislation.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) speaking in Houston / CNA file photo

Recently when Taiwan and El Salvador broke off diplomatic ties, Tsai called for national unity to "defend the status quo of the ROC (Taiwan)."

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, center) speaking in Belize / CNA file photo

This could represent her first move back to the status quo amid a serious downturn in relations between Taiwan and China. In this regard, would it not be wise for the authorities in Beijing to provide her with a pivot point? (Editorial abstract -- Aug. 26, 2018)

(By William Yen)

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