Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Australia lauds Taiwan President Ma's end to "checkbook diplomacy"

Australia lauds Taiwan President Ma's end to "checkbook diplomacy"

Australia has welcomed President Ma Ying-jeou's new diplomatic initiative to avoid competing with China for allies, openly lauding for the first time Ma's attempts to end so-called“checkbook diplomacy”in the South Pacific.
“We are very encouraged by statements by Taiwan officials, including the president, that Taiwan intends to provide aid that is transparent and accountable and has humanitarian and practical focus, " Alice Cawte, representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO) in Taiwan, said in an interview with the Central News Agency.
A senior career officer with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) , Cawte is familiar with China-Taiwan relations as she was the assistant secretary of DFAT's East Asia branch from 2005 to 2008 and has served overseas in Beijing and studied Chinese in Taiwan.
“It will benefit the region as a whole because without the previous tug-of-war for recognition in the Pacific ... (Taiwan) will be able to focus more on government systems that support good governance in the region and are transparent and accountable, ”Cawte added.
Since assuming the presidency on May 20, President Ma has followed a "modus vivendi, " or flexible, diplomatic strategy, which attempts to set aside Taipei's differences with Beijing to find a mutually beneficial equilibrium.
He is also seeking a "diplomatic truce" to end a longstanding tug-of-war with China in which both countries try to lure each other's allies to switch diplomatic allegiance by offering large sums of foreign aid.
Such attempts by Taiwan were aimed at carving out a greater international presence for the island, which due to China's opposition, is not recognized by the U.N. or other international groups whose members are countries.
China considers Taiwan one of its provinces, even though the island has been self-ruled since 1949.
In a visit to Taiwan's International Cooperation and Development Fund on Sept. 18, Ma affirmed that the government's approach to foreign aid is strictly based on three key principles: the purpose must be legitimate, the process must be legal, and the assistance must be effective and efficient.
Being the biggest benefactor of countries in the South Pacific, Australia has significant influence in the area.
It has long criticized Taiwan and China for conducting "checkbook diplomacy" in the South Pacific region, saying that such a hostile competition for influence fuels corruption and political divisions.
On Sept. 25 in a report to the Legislative Yuan, Foreign Minister Francisco H.L. Ou said that under the“modus vivendi”diplomatic strategy, both Australia and New Zealand expressed their intention to work with Taiwan on foreign aid programs in the South Pacific region.
Cawte said, however, that there are no specific projects on which the two countries are working together, but noted Australia is committed to consulting with Taiwan and sharing its experiences.
"We are very happy to share these experiences with donors who share our values of providing dual assistance that leads to good governance and long-term sustainable development, " the senior diplomat said.
"We certainly can consult with Taiwan to ensure that we both understand what we are intended to achieve and through consultation to ensure that we are both doing the best we can for the foreign assistance in the region," she added.
Cawte said the signs are encouraging regarding relations between Canberra and Taipei, as they welcomed new leaders in Dec. 2007 and May 2008, respectively. She agreed that bilateral ties seem to have entered a new stage as the battle between Taiwan and China for diplomatic recognition seems to be abating.
“I think relations are very good and they are evolving, ”Cawte said.“We are tracking well and we are very optimistic and positive about the future.”
She added that Australia was also“encouraged”by efforts by President Ma's administration to improve Taiwan-China relations.
"We believe this will improve regional security and regional stability," she said.
Speaking about Taiwan's international space, Cawte said that Australia's position is very clear and that is to support Taiwan's participation in regional and international organizations where that participation and consensus is possible.
"We certainly understand Taiwan's desire to participate in international organizations and believe Taiwan has much to contribute," Cawte said.
She added that while the precise formulation for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization is yet to be worked out, "Taiwan should play the key role in determining the consensus."


Updated : 2021-05-14 18:25 GMT+08:00