|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 57 - Monday April 05, 2004|
|Out With Taiwan in with Mainland China |
The news that Dominica had broken relations with Taiwan and established diplomatic links with Mainland China was widely reported in the foreign press. Indeed, major newspapers in the United States including the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and the Washington Post carried the report.
Elsewhere in the world, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Japanese Kyoto News Agency, and several outlets in Mainland China and Taiwan reported on the event. The obvious question is why does the world care how a tiny nation of 70 000 people pursues its foreign policy agenda.
I suspect the answer lies in world interest in the continuing titanic power struggle between Taiwan and Mainland China, and the measures that China is willing to take to stake its claim to what it considers its ‘renegade province’. In the continuing struggle, which began in 1949, the stakes have never been higher. China, a nuclear power has threathened force in the past and the United States endorses an unwritten agreement to come to Taiwan’s aid if attacked.
The announcement by Dominica was made just days after the Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian narrowly won re-election in a contest where China actively supported the contender, Lien Chan, who appeared more sympathetic to China’s interests. Chen on the other hand is viewed by the Chinese as attempting to promote Taiwanese independence, a move they have vowed to resist even at the cost of war.
And so it is that Dominica have placed itself squarely in the middle of the ongoing test of wills between the two countries. With Dominica’s defection, only twenty-six countries now have diplomatic relations with Taiwan of which twelve is from the Caribbean.
The willingness of the Chinese to dole out such a huge reward to Dominica (over US $100 million), hints at their strategy of enticing the remaining countries to switch allegiance. Conceivably, a completely isolated Taiwan would have less of a moral claim to notions of independence.
Taiwan’s foreign minister Chien stressed that the ROC has no intention of competing with Beijing in the "dollar diplomacy" game. He went on to say that mainland China's diplomatic offensive against Taiwan will not help cross-Taiwan Strait relations and will not gain the approval of Taiwan's 23 million people. "This will only make cross-strait relations worse," he added.
Political posturing aside, the Taiwanese government appeared genuinely wounded by Dominica’s decision. A flabbergasted Chien observed that Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit had requested US$58 million in various aid programs shortly after he assumed office in January following Pierre Charles' abrupt death.
"Those demands far exceeded the existing cooperative programs between our two countries and most of the programs had nothing to do with Dominica's national development and people's livelihood," Chien said.
In the negotiation process, Chien claimed that Skerrit had on many occasions threatened to switch diplomatic allegiance to Beijing if Taiwan failed to satisfy his demand. Chien noted that since establishing diplomatic ties with Dominica in 1983, his government has assisted Dominica in various national development projects, including stationing a five-member technical mission since 1985 to help the country develop agriculture and aquaculture.
The Taiwanese government promises to seek repayment of more than US$1 million in outstanding loans to Dominica through legal procedures, and will evacuate its embassy in Dominica.
Whatever the motivation and repercussions of Dominica’s move, no one can argue that Dominica’s young Prime Minister made a masterful stoke in neatly exploiting a potentially explosive relationship, to his country’s good.
Photo courtesy the Chinese News Agency