Des­per­ate Tai­wan leader clutches at US straw amid a strug­gling econ­omy

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Xie Nan Page Ed­i­tor: wang­wen­[email protected] globaltime­

Tai­wan leader Tsai Ing-wen kick-started her four-coun­try visit to the Caribbean on July 11 with a tran­sit stop in New York on the first leg and another in Den­ver on her way back. It has been re­ported that Tsai would spend four nights in the US. For the Tsai au­thor­ity, visit­ing Tai­wan’s “al­lies” is not the pur­pose of the trip, a de­cent stopover in the US is.

Tsai has con­firmed she will run for Tai­wan’s top leader in 2020. What mat­ters the most to her is the re­cep­tion she re­ceived on her tran­sit stops in the US and the level of US sup­port she could gar­ner.

For the three years Tsai has been in of­fice, Tai­wan has made lit­tle progress in im­prov­ing liv­ing stan­dards. All Tsai and her Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) can do is to play the se­cu­rity and diplo­matic “cards.”

How­ever, the less said about her diplo­matic achieve­ments the better. Given Tsai’s re­fusal to agree to the 1992 Con­sen­sus, the ba­sis of cross-straits po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment has been lost and Tai­wan can no longer keep its ob­server sta­tus at an­nual World Health As­sem­bly (WHA) events now. Now only 17 coun­tries have diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan.

Forced by the cur­rent predica­ment, Tsai is making more ef­forts to cozy up to the US, hop­ing to show­case her ac­com­plish­ments through the so­called progress in ties with the White House.

Un­for­tu­nately, although the Tsai au­thor­ity has been con­sis­tently co­op­er­at­ing with Wash­ing­ton and open­ing its cof­fers wide to pur­chase US arms, Wash­ing­ton treats the is­land only as a pawn and tends to make empty prom­ises.

Wash­ing­ton is in­ca­pable of help­ing Tai­wan ar­rest flag­ging sup­port from al­lies as their num­ber keeps de­creas­ing. When it comes to eco­nomic and trade is­sues, the US re­fuses to make any com­pro­mise with the is­land of Tai­wan. Ac­cord­ing to a March ar­ti­cle in Taipei Times, “Tai­wan’s re­stric­tions on im­ports of pork and beef from the United States re­main a ma­jor bar­rier to trade be­tween the two sides.” It also noted, “Tai­wan has not fol­lowed in­ter­na­tional stan­dards or a bi­lat­eral pro­to­col with the US on the is­sue of Amer­i­can meat im­ports.”

The US Com­merce Depart­ment said on July 2 that it would im­pose du­ties of up to 456 per­cent on cer­tain steel pro­duced in South Korea or the is­land of Tai­wan that is then shipped to Viet­nam for mi­nor pro­cess­ing and fi­nally ex­ported to the US. Iron­i­cally, Chen Ming-tong, “head” of the Main­land Af­fairs Coun­cil of Tai­wan, de­liv­ered a speech on the same day at the Her­itage Foundation in Wash­ing­ton, say­ing that deep­en­ing Tai­wan-us re­la­tions pro­vide solid back­ing for cross-straits peace.

More­over, peo­ple of Tai­wan are not in­ter­ested in Tsai’s diplo­matic ap­proach. Some Tai­wan me­dia out­lets said every visit of Tsai to “al­lies” is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive and brings lit­tle ben­e­fit.

To maintain “diplo­matic re­la­tions” with Panama, Tai­wan has paid huge amounts of money to the coun­try. Yet Panama snapped ties with the is­land in 2017.

Cur­rently, Tai­wan peo­ple are more con­cerned about the econ­omy and their liv­ing stan­dards as well as the im­prove­ment of cross-straits re­la­tions, rather than the close­ness be­tween the is­land of Tai­wan and the US, which the Tsai au­thor­ity of­ten brags about.

Tai­wan had ex­pe­ri­enced rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the last cen­tury and was once called one of Asia’s four lit­tle drag­ons. But in the 21st cen­tury, the is­land’s eco­nomic growth has been con­tin­u­ously de­cel­er­at­ing.

Worse, wages of its peo­ple, es­pe­cially the youths, have stag­nated. The real av­er­age monthly salary of em­ploy­ees in Tai­wan’s in­dus­trial and ser­vices sec­tors in 2018 was even be­low that in 2001.

In­stead of “stopover diplo­macy” in the US, pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Tai­wan should concentrat­e on re­solv­ing the is­land’s eco­nomic is­sues and im­prov­ing liv­ing stan­dards. They should adopt a proac­tive ap­proach to cross-straits ties so as to seek more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Tai­wan’s de­vel­op­ment rather than cre­at­ing con­fronta­tion across the Straits in pur­suit of their own in­ter­ests. The author is an as­so­ciate re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies of Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences. opin­[email protected]­

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