Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Taiwan should place greater emphasis on its relationship with Australia

Over the last few decades, Taiwan has placed most of its emphasis on its diplomatic relations with the US and Japan. It is true that the US has played the most important role in keeping Taiwan away from Communist aggression and providing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Japan, as the US’s most important ally in Asia, has also played an important role in keeping the region’s stability with her economic strength as well as providing military bases, despite its non-aggression peace constitution. Therefore, it was natural for Taiwan to place greater diplomatic emphasis on these two countries.

But such diplomatic preference also has its downside, and that is it tends to overlook the importance of other nations, which may appear to have increasing influence on the international arena. Taiwan’s relationship with Australia could be the best example of such negligence.

Unlike the US-Japan or US-China relations often being put in tension over trading conflicts, Australia has always enjoyed an all round cosy relationship with the US. Australia has been the US’s most trusted ally in the Asia-Pacific region for a long time. They are both English speaking nations and have a lot in common—both of them have been allies since the Second World War, and now still enjoy close military ties through the ANZUS treaty. Plus, Australia’s deployment of military forces in Iraq and its firm cooperation and participation in the war against terror have further strengthened their military connections. It can be said if any military crisis in Asia that will cause the US’s intervention, Australia will be likely to stand side by side with their American counterpart in the trouble spot.

Besides formal military ties, Australia’s exertion of influence in the South Pacific is also in accordance with the US’s interests in the region. That is why President George W. Bush once described Australia as US’s “deputy sheriff” in an interview with The Australian newspaper. It simply shows the closeness between Australia and the US, especially between Bush administration and Howard government.

The South Pacific region is one of the regions where Taiwan enjoys higher diplomatic recognition as several nations having formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. However, if Taiwan wants to keep building further diplomatic recognition in the region, Taiwan will certainly need the goodwill from Australia. In addition to Australia’s military and political influences in the region, ever increasing demand of natural resources has given Australia more weight on the world stage. As China is developing its energy strategy, Australia’s standing in the region has imperceptibly lifted by this wave of resource boom. China has been keeping an eye on the resource rich state of Western Australia and recently set up a new consulate in Queensland, which is also targeting at its rich mineral reserve. Undoubtedly, with ever increasing bilateral trading figures, Australia and China will become more and more economically dependent on each other, and it is possible that China will try to influence Australia’s attitude towards Taiwan.

In comparison, Taiwan’s trading relation with Australia is gradually falling behind Australia’s other trading partners, and by constantly having frictions with Australia in the South Pacific region, Taiwan is alienating itself from the region and degrading its relationship with Australia.

Taiwan fails to develop a long term diplomatic strategy, and has been overlooking the importance of Australia in the Asia-Pacific region for a long time. It is because Taiwan has a diplomatic myth of leaning towards the US and the figure of nations with formal ties.

If Taiwan genuinely wants to improve its international standing, Taiwan should rethink its diplomatic strategy, place greater emphasis on Australia and make efforts in working with Australia to keep the region’s peace and stability.

1 comment:

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