Alexa

Chen's foray offers progressive image

Chen's foray offers progressive image

President Chen Shui-bian's completed "journey of great friendship" to Central America may expand room for "democratic Taiwan" in regional and global diplomacy as well as shield Taipei's position in the region from the shock of six-decade ally Costa Rica's defection to the camp of the People's Republic of China in early June.
Chen and his entourage of nearly 90 staff, government officials, lawmakers and news workers returned to Taoyuan International Airport late last night after an eight day swing through Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua that included an important summit in Honduras between Taiwan and five Central American allies (the above three countries, plus Belize and Panama) and the Dominican Republic.
The successful completion of the summit and the relatively high ranking positions of its attendees - three presidents besides Chen, three vice presidents and a prime minister - and the firm affirmation of all six allies of their intention to maintain official ties with Taiwan and deepen multilateral and bilateral cooperation plans marked an important, if defensive, achievement.
The commitments of the six allies and the bilateral reaffirmations of friendship by Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and El Salvadoran President Antonio Saca for Taiwan's application to enter the United Nations punctured widespread expectations (especially in Beijing) that the unprincipled action, encouraged by over US$400 million in "loans" from China, by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to ditch Taiwan would trigger a domino effect and help realize the PRC's goal of "eradicating all of Taiwan's official allies" in Central America.
New vistas and values
The stunningly high-profile consummation of a public and vibrant dialogue and friendship between Chen and Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega during Chen's state visit on August 26-27 marked an "active" breakthrough that can revamp Taiwan's international image and expand the potential space for Taipei's formal as well as substantive diplomacy.
Ortega sent a ringing endorsement of the Taiwan president and Taiwan democracy to left-wing and populist political forces by his decision on Monday to spend virtually every waking moment with Chen.
Ortega drove the Taiwan president personally to a Sandinista rally in the "revolutionary temple" of Matagalpa and stood with Chen together with official government spokesman and first lady and poet Rosario Murillo on stage. They were accompanied by the international socialist hymn "The Internationale," the Chilean march of "The People United," and Ortega's own Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSNL)'s adaption of John Lennon tunes in "All Power to the People" and "Nicaragua Will Triumph" amid a sea of red and black FSLN banners and Taiwanese flags.
The former guerrilla leader took an even more profound step Tuesday evening with a joint communique and news conference at the FSLN headquarters.
Ortega issued a clear endorsement of the Democratic Progressive Party's proposed referendum on whether to join the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan" as a form of "direct participatory democracy" and his promise to adjust Managua's diplomatic policy to respect the results of the citizens' vote. Moreover, Chen related yesterday morning that the Sandinista leader had explicitly supported Taiwan's entry into the U.N. under the name of "Taiwan," and urged Chen not to give an inch on this principle, despite pressure from the U.S., the PRC and other countries.
Moreover, Ortega declared that his government wanted diplomatic ties with the PRC but "will no longer accept additional conditions," specifically any demands by Beijing to break ties with Taiwan.
The underlying reasons for Ortega's decision to "bet everything on Taiwan," which was the front page headline in Nicaragua's "La Prensa" on Monday, is based both on foundations of interest and values.
Frankly, Ortega clearly sees Taiwan as the preferable short- and long-term development partner than the PRC, especially given Taiwan's grassroots-directed foreign assistance and enthusiasm for anti-poverty and employment-generating programs, and since Taipei clearly will pay greater attention to Nicaragua's needs than Beijing, which typically throws millions of U.S. dollars and unfinished high-profile projects at new allies.
But, as Chen observed, Ortega's performance also shows that a deep set of values is operating as well, as shown by his treatment of Chen as a "proto-companero" and advocation of the referendum as a valid form of "direct participation."
Another positive development was the openness of the Taiwan side to Ortega's call for "fair trade," instead of just "free trade," and defense of the human rights of workers in Taiwan companies in all societies.
The far reaching significance of Ortega's stamp of political approval, enhanced in value by the specter of the persecution of Chen by right-wing U.S. President George W. Bush, has been largely ignored in Taiwan because of the media's obsession with detecting any signs of "dollar diplomacy" in the DPP government's modest assistance programs. Together with Chen, we believe there can be no price attached to the sharing of universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, peace and justice. Such value-based alliances are truly priceless and not subject for sale or purchase.
If Beijing is surprised, they have only themselves to blame. After all, despite its red bunting, the PRC is now the world's most rapacious capitalist regime whose own people suffer from the "low road" of development from low wages in dangerous workplaces and are exposed to grave pollution and defective products.
The PRC's external policy is also being ever more widely perceived, even in the global left, as a new form of neo-colonialism or imperialism.
With national health care and improving social welfare and direct democracy and grassroots oriented assistance, Taiwan reflects the values of democratic socialism far more substantially than the PRC's tattered red bunting.
In any case, the fact that Chen, as the representative of "democratic Taiwan," can embrace in the space of two days a right-wing Salvadoran president and one of the leaders of the world signifies a welcome new capability to transcend ideological divisions and "form friendships" on shared commitments, even with "different interpretations" to "democracy, freedom, peace, human rights, social justice and sustainability."
This new space may allow "democratic Taiwan" to finally leave behind the "zero-sum" diplomacy that dominated the Kuomintang regime, but will require major changes in the mentalities of numerous Taiwan diplomats and our citizens to break through KMT-built mental birdcages, and also to realize the importance of helping ourselves by first helping others.


Updated : 2021-04-17 19:17 GMT+08:00