The Year Ahead: SAINT LUCIA AND TAIWAN’S PATH TO STRONGER TIES
The relationship between Saint Lucia and the Republic of China (hereafter referred to as Taiwan) is increasingly important to both nations. As 2018 nears its end, the past 11 months have seen closer ties pursued across multiple fronts. At the same time, it appears clear that it’s not the past but the road ahead that will be the most important for the relationship. Especially as 2019 will see both nations shift further into new identities globally.
DEEP LINKS BEYOND ECONOMICS
Saint Lucia and Taiwan not only share a strong working relationship — having notably partnered on the Banana Black Sigatoka Management Project (BSMP) in recent years — but deep ties beyond economics. It’s easy to dismiss these as incidental if focusing on the balance sheet between Taipei and Castries alone, but ultimately they account for big differences between how Saint Lucia can pursue a relationship with Taiwan in a way it would struggle to do so with Beijing and the People’s Republic of China (hereafter referred to as China).
Saint Lucia at 616 sq km with 179,000 residents and Taiwan at 35,980 sq km with 23 million are both relatively small island nations compared to surrounding states. Each resents the idea of foreign interference in its national life, with Taipei naturally regarding Beijing’s governance of China as the biggest issue in their foreign policy, and each seeks a future that relies on greater engagement with the global economy.
Saint Lucia is an importer of customers and commercial activity, at present chiefly within the tourism and finance sector. Taiwan is an exporter of machinery and electronics. Each can offer the other expertise in these spheres.
Taiwan is among the world’s global leaders in tech and emerging industry.
Saint Lucia’s has benefitted from this in its drive towards greater digitisation and connectivit; the Government Islandwide Network (GINet) Project rolled out earlier this year was funded, in part, by the Taiwanese government.
Taiwanese technical expertise is also being utilised in the redevelopment of Hewanorra International Airport. For over 20 years the airport has been earmarked for upgrade, with a number of attempted starts stalling along the way. Just as tourism is a cornerstone of Saint Lucia’s economy, the infrastructure upgrade seeks to deliver an airport that would facilitate the national goal of doubling the island’s room stock over the next fifteen years.
In turn, as August also saw Castries and
Taipei form a sister city agreement on the municipal level, it is hoped the airport’s expected opening in Q3 of 2020 will not only boost tourism but also see an even greater increase in the flow of people and resources between the two capital cities.
Conversely, as 2018 has seen Beijing up the pressure on Taipei internationally, the need for Taiwan to market a strong international brand and generate global interest on the lives and culture of all Taiwanese has never been more crucial. Success here means that despite Beijing’s efforts to diminish the difference, the global consciousness of the Taiwanese cause and its distinctive culture will retain a high profile globally.
THE BEIJING EQUATION
Taiwan’s relationship with Saint Lucia and the world at large will always be informed by its status alongside Beijing. Since taking office in November 2012, President Xi Jinping’s tenure has not only seen tensions flare with Taipei, but also in Hong Kong surrounding the territory’s right to elect its own local leaders.
In 2014 the CPC held “time [is] on its side” and that, accordingly, it would ignore Western overtures on the disputed territories of Tibet and Xinjiang. These ongoing territorial disputes, when met with stern resistance from Beijing, give rise to the risk of another outbreak of instability. Despite Xi’s strongman image, the CPC recognises that China’s economy must keep growing lest it risk the Party’s grip on power.
How it manages these territorial disputes, including with Taiwan, will be critical to its relations with Western nations. The outbreak of another Tiananmen Square-style crisis — as horrifying as the idea is to consider — would also deliver a knock-on effect, one that could not only see Beijing isolated, but renewed sympathy for the cause of Taiwanese independence.
THE QUESTION OF CHEQUEBOOK DIPLOMACY
Saint Lucian ties with Taiwan are strong, and 2018 has seen them deepen further. Efforts to grow the relationship have not been one way; while Taiwan has invested heavily in Saint Lucia, so too has Castries’ opening of an embassy in Taiwan in 2015 — Saint Lucia’s first in Asia — shown a mutuality. What’s more, it is not only culturally but politically that Saint Lucia finds far more in common with Taipei than it ever could (in present circumstances) with the CPC’s authoritarian rule in Beijing.
This notwithstanding, the efforts by the CPC to have nations switch recognition of China’s rightful government from Taipei to Beijing have been robust over the past year, with Dominica and El Salvador switching sides earlier in 2018.
For Saint Lucians who wish to see the relationship maintained with Taipei, the reality of Beijing’s economic growth and capacity to provide substantial investment is immense, even if history shows such investment has at times come with big caveats or a failure to deliver.
For those who contend the Taipei-Beijing relationship will always ultimately be one of chequebook diplomacy, 2019 and beyond will place a new pressure on the relationship between Taipei and Castries.
THE NEXT CHAPTER: THE 11TH ANNUAL ST. LUCIA-TAIWAN PARTNERSHIP TRADESHOW
The advantage of ongoing relationships is familiarity; that, as time progresses, partners come to better know each other, understand each other and identify common pathways for progress. This is true of the evolving links between Saint Lucia and Taiwan.
Following hot on the heels of a Prime Minister Chastanet-led Saint Lucian delegation’s visit to Taiwan in October, the 11th annual Saint Lucia-Taiwan Partnership Tradeshow, to be held November 23rd to November 25th at the Golden Palm Events Centre in Rodney Heights, is the next great event in this relationship. It will also seek to build upon the groundwork laid earlier this month when a visiting Taiwanese delegation met with local business leaders, including Hubert Emmanuel, Saint Lucia’s ambassador to Taiwan from 2016 to 2018.
Notably, this event will seek to go beyond government relations, placing an emphasis upon the business community, and forging links between small and medium sized businesses between the two nations.
Global headwinds may await this bilateral relationship in 2019, but the building of the relationship between the people of two nations will ultimately grow strongest via enduring links in the private sector. The Saint Lucia-Taiwan Partnership Tradeshow is the next stepping stone in this path.
This notwithstanding, the efforts by the CPC to have nations switch recognition of China’s rightful government from Taipei to Beijing have been robust over the past year, with Dominica and El Salvador switching sides earlier in 2018
Xi Jinping, President of China. Considering that the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 still has not been implemented, observers of Caribbean geopolitics maintain the perspective that Washington believes the Caribbean is “too democratic and not poor enough” to warrant long-term U.S. engagement. In the backdrop, China’s latest overtures to the Caribbean include the promise that adherents of the One-China policy will be able to access the resource toolkit of the Belt and Road Initiative—a development that will prove attractive to many prime ministers of the region.