Special Mantra resonates in Republic of China

Venkat Raman

Three words echo these days in every corridor of the government in the Republic of China: New Southbound Policy (NSP). From the Taipei City in the North to Kaohsiung in the South, one could sense the excitement in the new approach to diplomacy of a nation that has been struggling for world recognition over several decades.

There is recognition for the Republic of China, or Taiwan, on the economic front, although almost all countries of the world, including India, Australia, and New Zealand, follow the ‘One China Policy’ proclaimed more than 25 years ago.

Almost every country has trade ties with Taiwan – its total exports last year were valued at US$ 317.25 billion, an impressive performance for a country of less than 24 million people.

Eluding world recognition

Much of the world proclaims this small country as its Trading Partner – New Zealand has a Full-fledged Free Trade Agreement without a diplomatic presence (see separate story in this Section) and yet, the status as a Member of the UN and much of the global political partnership has eluded Taiwan over the years.

During an informal briefing to visiting journalists from the Indo-Pacific region at his office in Taipei on August 13, 2018, Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kelly W Hsieh said that his country’s NSP was an integral part of a Comprehensive Plan.

Growing economic ties

“Our economic relations with the United States of America and other countries of the free world are warmer than political ties. While security is a constant concern, Taiwan believes in people-to-people dialogue and exchange of thoughts and ideas,” he said.

He said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a strong indicator of robust economic relationship and that FDI accounts for more than US$ 200 billion in his country.

“Republic of China recognises the rising power of India in the Asian Continent and we hope to be a major player in its economic and social development. Indonesia is also a very important friend with in the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN). Indeed, the Asia-Pacific region is of great significance to us,” he said.

Mr Hsieh added that Taiwan hoped to further strengthen its trade ties with New Zealand.

Impressive trade figures

The Ministry’s Deputy Spokesperson Joanne Ou said that Cross-Strait relations (between Taiwan and Mainland China, or People’s Republic of China) continues to remain the most significant part of total trade volume of Taiwan.

Two-way trade between the two countries was US$ 181.7 billion, of which Taiwan’s exports were valued at US$ 130.2 billion, while imports were valued at US$ 51.5 billion.

Mainland China accounts for 62% of Taiwan’s outbound investment, placed at US$ 97.7 billion, accounting for 977% growth during the nine years from 2009 and 2017.

Embracing Asia-Pacific

In his Report to the Foreign Affairs and National Defence Committee in October last year, the then Foreign Minister David Tawei Lee said that the NSP will strengthen Taiwan’s role in the Asia-Pacific region.

“This will bring Taiwan closer to the region and to the world, and the world closer to Taiwan,” he said and quoted a recent private polling company survey (commissioned by his Ministry), as saying that more than 70% of Taiwanese people supported the government’s promotion of steadfast diplomacy and the NSP.

“About 75.6% of the Survey respondents endorsed continuation of overseas visits by high-ranking officials, 84.8% supported new thinking that would see the provision of one-way aid replaced by a two-way approach based on mutual assistance for mutual benefit.

“We will work to ensure that our people really feel the results of our efforts, and thereby identify all the more with our policies,” he said.

Leveraging factors

Taiwan’s NSP is largely attributed to President Tsai Ing-wen, who has been its strongest advocate since she announced its implementation on September 5, 2016.

As well as reducing dependence on Mainland China, the NSP seeks to strengthen relationship with 18 countries in the Asia Pacific region, comprising Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Arguably, Taiwan has closer ties with ASEAN (Association of South East Nations) countries to promote ties with its immediate neighbours.

“The policy is designed to leverage Taiwan’s cultural, educational, technological, agricultural, and economic assets to deepen its regional integration,” Bonnie S Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia at Washington DC based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said.

NSP Guidelines

“The Guidelines for the New Southbound Policy issued by the Tsai administration detail that the policy is designed to (1) forge a “sense of economy community” by fostering links between Taiwan and the 18 NSP target countries; and (2) establish mechanisms for wide-ranging negotiations and dialogues, and to “form a consensus for cooperation” with NSP target countries.

“In the short and medium term, the Guidelines identify four goals: (1) use national will, policy incentives, and business opportunities to spur and expand “two-way” exchanges with NSP target countries; (2) encourage industry to adopt “a New Southbound strategy” in their planning; (3) cultivate more people with the skills needed to support the NSP; and (4) expand multilateral and bilateral negotiations and dialogues to enhance economic cooperation and resolve disputes and disagreements,” she said.

Regional Peace and Stability

Taiwan is dedicated to actively promoting a diplomacy for peace, creating sustainable partnerships with diplomatic allies, deepening and broadening substantive ties in various fields with countries that have similar values, and maintaining regional peace and stability.

It continues to seek expanded international participation, while making concrete contributions to the global community, and enhancing its international profile through economic and humanitarian aid policies.

In addition, Taiwan strives to take part in international economic and trade cooperation mechanisms, strengthen links with the region and the world, create more business opportunities overseas, and promote its economic transformation and upgrading.

It also aims to take advantage of resources of the private sector, local governments, the younger generation and industries to advance the nation’s multifaceted diplomacy.

Taiwan’s goal is to transform itself into a model of new Asian values, endeavouring to deepen democracy, ensure free choices, promote sustainable innovation, and resolve conflicts peacefully.


Photo Caption:

Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kelly W Hsieh (seventh from left), with Ambassador James (extreme left) and Deputy Spokesperson Joanne Ou (extreme right) with the visiting Indo-Pacific region journalists at his office in Taipei on August 13, 2018.


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