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Commentary: 'Dollar diplomacy' doomed to fail
( 2003-11-13 10:08) (China Daily HK Edition)

The so-called "summit meeting" between the leaders of Central American nations, the Dominican Republic and Taiwan, which took place on August 21 to 22, provided clear evidence of the island province's increased use of "economic aid diplomacy."

The Taiwan organizers not only paid the participating leaders for all the costs to attending the meeting, including return flights, but also forked out for the jewellery purchased by participants' wives. In return, the participating states indicated that they would continue to support Taiwan's entry into the United Nations.

In terms of the meeting's content, participants and expected goal, it was a continuation of former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui's policy of "economic aid diplomacy" and "pragmatic diplomacy."

In fact, the first meeting of this kind was held in 1997 when Lee was in office. It has been organized biennially since then.

There are two purposes for holding this year's meeting.

First, Taiwan attempted to indicate that it was a "state" and recognized by some countries by gathering some leaders of foreign countries together, though the majority of the international community does not recognize Taiwan as a "state."

Second, Taiwan tried to consolidate its relations with these countries through such kinds of biennial "summit" meetings. Among the less than 30 countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 14 nations are from the Latin America.

The seven Central American nations are linked together geographically and therefore are a bloc, to which the Taiwan authorities attach great importance.

But this bloc has become increasingly unstable in recent years. Fearing the domino effect, Taiwan attempted to consolidate its ties with this diplomatic bloc by holding this "summit" meeting.

The previous three "summit" meetings were held in Latin America. But this time it was held in Taiwan because it was also seen as contributing to the current leader Chen Shui-bian's election campaign.

Due to Chen's lack of achievements in office, the island's poor economic state and the problems of unemployment and strikes, his current electoral outlook is not good.

Chen has deliberately delayed the solution to the issue of direct transport across the Taiwan Straits by dishing out the so-called "three-stage theory."

This has aroused the dissatisfaction of the public on both sides of the Straits. The mainstream view in Taiwan is that Chen cannot offer anything to improve cross-Straits relations.

Chen played the diplomatic card under these circumstances, in a blatant attempt to boost his electoral prospects.

Chen Shui-bian seemed to have superficially improved his own image and expanded his international influence through this "summit" meeting. But the fact of the matter is that the Taiwan public has been complaining about the sheer waste of resources by Chen, purely to improve his flagging chances of winning the next "presidential" election.

Since Chen took office, Taiwan's "foreign aid" spending has increased annually, far exceeding that of when the Kuomintang Party (KMT) was in office.

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed during this meeting between Taiwan and Panama was viewed as an important "fruit." According to this FTA, 71 per cent of Panama's products are exempt of tax in Taiwan and only 48.49 per cent of Taiwan's product are agreed to be exempt of tax in Panama, which will have an especially great impact on Taiwan's agricultural sector. It is not surprising that this FTA was described by Taiwan's media as more "political" than "economic" and a very expensive "fruit" indeed.

In order to expand his "international survival space," Chen Shui-bian has always regarded signing free trade agreements with foreign countries as an important political task because, according to international law, if there is no special reservation, signing such agreements also means recognizing the other signatory as a sovereign state.

Therefore, the Taiwan authorities have made all-out efforts to promote signing free trade agreements with foreign countries, in particular the United States, Japan and Singapore.

Since it failed to make it, Taiwan then turned to small countries like Panama.

Since Panama already has "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan, the real purpose behind signing FTA seems to prevent Panama from establishing diplomatic relations with the mainland in the future.

Besides, Taiwan wished to become an "outside member" of the Central America Community so that these Central American nations could help it to enter the UN.

On the part of these Central American states, Taiwan can be their "automatic teller machine" in this diplomatic struggle.

Most of the 20-plus countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan are distributed in the economically and socially underdeveloped regions. They can by no means represent the mainstream of the international body.

As the Taiwan media pointed out, the Taiwan authorities have spent a great deal of money to buy "diplomatic relations" with certain poor small countries.

In fact, since Lee's administration, the Taiwan authorities have advocated "diplomatic breakthroughs" through bribery if normal methods do not work. Chen Shui-bian's "economic aid diplomacy" is the obvious legacy of Lee's policy.

Another "fruit" of this "summit" meeting was that some of the participating nations promised to drum up support for Taiwan's application to join the UN during the 58th UN General Assembly in September.

However, this "fruit" finally brought Taiwan the 11th failure of its attempt to enter the UN as the 58th UN General Assembly made the decision on September 17 and refused to put the proposal of the so-called "question of representation right of Taiwan in the United Nations" onto the assembly's agenda.

It is known to all that the UN Resolution 2758 approved by the General Assembly in 1971 has already clearly and comprehensively solved de jour and de facto the question of representation right of China in the UN. Hence, there is no single reason to re-consider this resolution.

Nevertheless, despite the opposition of the international community, since 1993, Taiwan authorities, by means of bribery, has instigated a handful of countries that have diplomatic ties with the island to put forward the so-called "Proposal of Taiwan's Participation in the UN" every year, which has been condemned by the international body.

Obviously, the Taiwan authorities attempt to create "two Chinas" or "one China and one Taiwan" in the UN.

In fact, such proposals are not only a serious violation of the UN Charter's spirit of non-intervention in member states' internal affairs, but also an overt challenge to the one-China principle widely recognized by the international body.

Seventy-nine of the participating countries made clear their attitude and were opposed to including this proposal on the agenda of this UN General Assembly. Many countries, including Russia, France and Britain, spoke in support of the one-China principle, respect for China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and international legal status and recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing all of Chinese people.

The delegates of Pakistan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Bangladesh and Guinea noted that, since Taiwan is part of China, the proposal on the "representation right of Taiwan in the UN" is the attempt to legitimize the Taiwan separatists' conspiracy to split China by making use of the UN and a gross intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. If such proposal were to be included on the agenda of the UN General Assembly, the reputation of the UN will be seriously affected.

Countries like Egypt and Sri Lanka expressed their discontent with some countries' badgering the UN to discuss a question solved 30 years ago by submitting the same proposal every year. They suggested that the UN draw up some regulations that any proposal vetoed three years in a row should not be put forward any more.

Even the United States, which is regarded as Taiwan's quasi-ally, has for many times indicated in recent years, especially since the September 11 terror attack, that it supports the one-China principle, opposes Taiwan independence and does not support Taiwan to join the UN.

The US Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt described the Sino-US relations as "three Cs," namely, "constructive," "co-operative" and "candid."

He also said US President George W. Bush is determined to maintain good relations with China and the Chinese people and that a strong and prosperous China is favourable to the region.

Therefore, the decision made by the 58th UN General Assembly has again demonstrated that adherence to the one-China principle is the consensus of the international community.

The very few Taiwan separatists' attempt to split the motherland by creating "two Chinas" or "one China one Taiwan" in the world is doomed to fail.

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