Taiwan or Not Taiwan: That is the Question.”
Shakespeare could not have put it better, and I thank the omniscient, eternal Bard. Some truths are forever. Dr Anthony in his erudite way is fond of pointing out the insignificance of Taiwan’s stature and the meagerness of her diplomatic allies. And indeed, as one writer wrote, “The list of countries that have chosen diplomatic relations with Taiwan over mainland China reads like an exercise in national obscurity,” which, I suppose means that, in Dr Anthony’s opinion, St Lucia has become an obscure island state due to her relations with the Republic of China, Taiwan, a nation he not only refuses to recognize but condemns and demeans on every occasion.
Well, let me add a little to Dr Anthony’s store of erudition, his font of wisdom, his fountain of knowledge, however futile the exercise may be: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
Yes, Mainland China is the largest, fastest growing nation in the world; by July 11, 2011, its external debt, the money it owes foreign donors, banks and nations, had risen to UD$ 585,970,000,000.
Taiwan, a nation of a mere 23 million souls – yes, the Taiwanese have souls – has an external debt of ZERO DOLLARS. Taiwan does not owe anybody a cent. How could we possibly, Dr Anthony, ever consider maintaining relations with a country that had such a strong economy that it did not have the decency to be in debt like the rest of the world? Maybe even you, Dr Anthony, could learn a bit about managing an economy from a nation like Taiwan.
In 2010, Mainland China had a GDP of 5,878,629 million US dollars, which placed it a distant second behind the United States of American with a GDP of 14,582,400 million USD, almost three times the size. Taiwan placed an impressive 37th on the list, which was not bad for a “nonentity” nation.
So maybe Dr Anthony’s apparent or implied dismissal of Taiwan as an insignificant non-nation might be right (by the way, St Lucia is placed 73rd in the rankings). But then again, maybe not … most nations, like banks, like to have reserve funds. So let’s take a peep at foreign reserve rankings!
Oh, my gosh! What a surprise! In fifth place after China, Japan, Russia and Saudi Arabia, who do we find but little, insignificant Taiwan! Taiwan, this Asian powerhouse, is one of the richest countries in the world. Not only does it not have any debt, it has foreign reserves of USD 387,200,000,000 that far outstrip almost every other country in the world.
Let me pause for a moment to catch my breath; the thought of all that money makes me dizzy.
Dizzy, by the way, is how I feel when I read of Dr Anthony’s plans for St Lucia. I think they are great; I really do. Sadly, without a proper financial plan, they do not have a chance of ever being a reality. The only way to pay for them would be to raise taxes, introduce new taxes, borrow even more money, or find a benefactor as generous as Taiwan. Raising taxes would appear to be dismal prospect because even if you were able to close all the loopholes, you actually have to have an income in order to be able to pay taxes. Most politicians, Dr Anthony and George Bush included, prefer to cut taxes in order to stimulate the economy.
So what’s it to be, Kenny Old Love? Taiwan or not Taiwan: That is the Question. It is time to come clean. Declare your position. What are you going to do after the election if your party regains power? Every promise you make, every vow you might break, the electorate will be watching you. How are you going to pay for your programs, as good as they might be? People cannot eat promises; they cannot feed on words. Where, if not from taxes and borrowing, is the money coming from?
Let me help you out, Kenny. Here’s a bit of advice. Forget Mainland China. Start practicing humility and sensibility; rejoin reality. Recognize that a nation’s ambassador is inseparable from his country. You do not have to go down on your knees and eat your words, just stop spewing nonsense.
Everyone knows how hurt you were that the Taiwanese Ambassador did not come to you to present his credentials after you lost the last election, but get over it: A politician cannot afford to be so thin-skinned or bear a grudge that harms his constituency and country. Recognize Taiwan for what the country is – a highly successful, relatively small state that is an island role model for the rest of the world. Recognize the Ambassador for what he is – a devoted servant of his country who is completely dedicated to assisting St Lucia in the most efficient, transparent way possible according to the wishes of his own political leaders.
Just a week ago, one of my colleagues attended an SLP rally at which she was told by the candidate, in all insouciant innocence that Labour would go the way of Mainland China because “even if they do not give us money, they will give us the product.” I imagine the whole of St Lucia remembers how well the “product” worked the last time Mainland China was around. Taiwanese projects were abandoned and left to rot. New mega projects like stadiums were initiated and built with Chinese labour. Old Hephaistos, or Hephaestus as he is also known, must be turning in his grave!
Hephaestus, the celestial artist and God of Labour, was, by the way, the son of Hera. He was born lame, and, as some belive, his mother was so displeased at the sight of him that she flung him out of Olympus, the equivalent of Heaven in those days. Others believe that Zeus, the main god, kicked him out for taking part with his mother in a quarrel Zeus and Hera were having. Hephaestus’s lameness was the consequence of his fall. He was a whole day falling, and at last alighted in the island of Lemnos, which was thenceforth sacred to him. I imagine the inhabitants of Lemnos, an island so obscure that few have ever heard of it, would have chosen Taiwan over Mainland China any day!
But back to Labour: How sad! How completely out of touch with reality. Do Labourites not read? Are they so insular that they only believe what the supreme leader tells them? Here’s a dose of reality. Try to digest it, however unpalatable it might be: Cross-Straights relations between Mainland China and Taiwan have never been better and are improving with every passing day. Taiwan and her giant neighbor are important to each other, much more important than any tiny island state on the other side of the world.
Countries much bigger than St Lucia have learned the hard way of the consequences of political ignorance. Take Panama for example: China rebuffed Panama’s wish to switch allegiance from Taipei to Beijing because China was unwilling to risk a diplomatic incident that might undermine her strengthening relations with Taiwan. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli wanted his homeland to benefit from China’s economic rise. However, a 2010 meeting between the Panamanian and Chinese Foreign Ministers resulted in Beijing rebuffing Panama City’s wish for fear of cooling cross-straits relations. Nothing has changed. Panama, though a small country of 3,460,462 inhabitants (almost 22 times greater than St Lucia’s), occupies a strategically important position along the Panama Canal that links the Caribbean and the Pacific. Even this would not sway China in its determination not to rock the neighborly boat, so why should St Lucia that has nothing of strategic importance to offer fare any differently?
Let’s digress a while. Mainland China has never needed or wanted relations with St Lucia or any other small island state. China’s sole purpose in establishing diplomatic relations with “obscure” nations was to prevent Taiwan from having them. Taiwan, on the other hand, wanted, needed, lusted after friendly recognition after its dismissal from the
United Nations – an organization of which it was a founding member – at the insistence of Communist China. For more than half a century, Taiwan has grown from strength to strength despite its outcast status.
Now then, hand on your heart, who is your best friend, the bully who drives someone away and threatens you if you ever dare go near that person again, or the outcast that everyone secretly loves and admires and who genuinely needs your friendship?
Whatever the answer, it is of no consequence except as a moral indicator of what you are: You see, China does not want or need our friendship. Taiwan is far more important to China than we will ever be.
Let’s take another example: Paraguay’s newly-elected, left-leaning leader Lugo announced that he would no longer support Taiwan’s interests in the United Nations. Despite Lugo’s interest in realigning Paraguay with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the PRC made it clear that it respected Taiwan’s “claim” to relations with Paraguay. President Fernando Lugo stated that Paraguayans desired closer relations with the PRC, and noted that Paraguay was the only country in South America that maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan – the usual nonsensical argument – not that the average Paraguayan appreciated the thought of losing Taiwanese aid and assistance. Paraguay requested financial assistance from the Mainland Chinese (PRC) in exchange for diplomatic relations, but the PRC rejected Paraguay’s overtures, which prompted Paraguay to go back to Taiwan for help. The PRC-Taiwan truce suggests that Paraguay will maintain relations with Taiwan for the foreseeable future.
So, Dr Anthony, what is the answer? Taiwan or not Taiwan? Is it going to be higher taxes, new taxes, greater borrowing, or the beggar’s cup? Are you going to try to mend bridges and accept reality or are you going to continue to spread the myth of Chinese support, however ephemeral, fleeting, that election campaign promise may be? Who is going to pay for your dreams? When will ancient perceived slights and old grudges die? When will you put them behind you and face the reality of Taiwan’s generosity towards this country and our need for continued good relations?
If Taiwan is not our friend, who is?