Taiwan: Foreign policy report to the Legislative Yuan
Speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Dr. Hung-mao Tien before the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, Legislative Yuan. June 5, 2000
Mr. Chairman, Committee members, ladies and gentlemen:
It is a great honor for me to brief your distinguished Committee on our foreign policy for the first time since the formation of the new administration. I take this opportunity to pay my respects and express my appreciation to all members of the Committee for your assistance in expanding our diplomatic space and for the input of your insightful suggestions into our foreign policy making. I will now report to you on the international circumstances of our foreign diplomacy during the last few months, our foreign diplomacy ideals and means, and on our future international relations and foreign diplomacy perspective. Your comments are most welcomed! .
With the presidential inauguration on May 20, we witnessed the first democratic alternation of political parties in power in the ROC's constitutional history. Taiwan thus formally entered into the era of party politics, which is a great historic achievement in the development of our democracy. The international community has widely recognized the maturity of our democracy; it has hailed the ROC as a new democracy in Asia that can serve as beacon of hope for 1.3 billion Chinese and a role model for mainland China's future democratization.
The Republic of China is an independent sovereign state that has made outstanding political and economic achievements. As a matter of course, it should have the right to establish normal diplomatic relations with other countries and to join international organizations and activities. The ROC government will thus continue to actively promote our comprehensive pragmatic diplomacy in order to expand its international survival space and development. It will also assume its international responsibilities by sharing its unique growth experience and economic strength with the entire world, thus feeding back its share to the international community. .
Even though the PRC constitutes the main obstacle to the smooth conduct and development of our foreign diplomacy, we do not intend to play a "zero-sum" game with her. We are willing to improve dialogue with the PRC through all available channels based on the principles of reciprocity, mutual benefit, reason and dignity. By demonstrating our good intentions, they may come to realize that both sides can forsake disagreements so as to create a "win-win" situation, hence contributing together to world peace, stability and development.
2. Foreign Policy Making Orientation
The purposes of implementing our pragmatic diplomacy are to maintain the sovereignty and dignity of the ROC, to ensure its survival and development, and to guarantee the safety and benefits its citizens deserve from the international community. In facing the PRC's severe diplomatic pressure, the ROC needs to pool the strengths of the government and of the civilian sectors and promote "peoples' diplomacy" avenues that can best allow us to fully participate in international organizations, as well as allow us to fully promote our pragmatic diplomacy. The ROC's foreign policy will use "continuity" and "stability" to consolidate relations with nations with which it shares diplomatic ties, enhance the substantial relations it has with nations with which it shares no diplomatic ties, and seek to actively participate in international organizations and activities. In addition, I would like to propose the three concepts of "democracy-based diplomacy", "civilian-based diplomacy" and "public opinion-based diplomacy" that will serve in strengthening the promotion of our comprehensive pragmatic diplomacy objectives.
1. The Principle of "Democracy-based Diplomacy"
In recent years, the international community has praised our country's democratic development and achievements, and the measures that we have adopted to guarantee and protect human rights have been recognized by people all over the world. Democracy and freedom are the ideals and lifestyle that we uphold. They constitute an important strength in preserving our national security. Any system or action that violates democracy or human rights can be seen as a threat to our survival. Democracy and human rights are the two sides of a same coin, especially in this post-cold war era where civilized nations attach great importance to human life and human rights. This trend has gradually brought the international community to give human rights precedence over the concept of sovereignty, and we therefore should promote "human rights diplomacy" and "democracy-based diplomacy". By cooperating with international human rights organizations and democratic institutions to assist members of the international society in improving human rights situations, we then would contribute in creating an international environment conducive to democracy and peace. The ROC can thus elevate its international image and status, which will in turn help reinforce the legitimacy of our participation in international activities.
2. The Principle of "Civilian-based Diplomacy"
The ROC's civilian sector has enormous vitality and unlimited human and material resources. If the government can fully cooperate with it and make the best use of all available resources to carry out its foreign affairs tasks, we would gain immense momentum for multi-level, multi-faceted and diversified diplomacy. Encouraging the participation of the civilian sector would also increase people's understanding and support of our foreign policy, as well as help us reach a common consensus on our foreign affairs. In practical terms, the government will actively develop "the second track" mechanisms of exchange and dialogue. This practice will help the civilian sector's participation in international non-governmental organizations and activities, and help the conduct of diplomatic activities between cities, academic institutions, political parties, think tanks and businesses. This use of the resources of the whole people will significantly expand our country's participation and presence in the international community.
3. The Principle of " Public Opinion-based Diplomacy"
A responsible government or administration should base its policy making on democratic principles and on the respect of public opinion. Any policy that does not follow public opinion will not win the genuine support of the people and will not succeed. Hence, the government should fully grasp public opinion and take it as an important reference in policy-making. Practically speaking, we need to establish a mechanism of communication between the government and civil society and encourage people to use it to input their suggestions and creativity into our foreign policy process. This will give people a greater sense of participation as well as a sense of mission and accomplishment. It will also in turn allow the government to win more popular support and raise the nation's overall ability to realize its foreign policy objectives. In view of the above, MOFA is planning to conduct opinion polls targeting MOFA colleagues and the general public to obtain their views on a variety of foreign affairs issues. We will then combine all opinions and suggestions on how to expand our international space, and these will serve as a basis to review and improve our foreign policy.
3. General Situation of ROC Foreign Relations
Next I would like to report to you on the three main directions of our foreign diplomacy, which are "consolidating our relations with diplomatic allies", "promoting substantial relations with nations having no diplomatic relations with the ROC", and "actively participating in international organizations".
1. Consolidating relations with diplomatic allies
The bilateral relations we hold with our diplomatic allies are not only a mainstay of the preservation of our sovereignty in the international community, they also constitute an important force in support of the ROC's participation in international organizations. The ROC currently has 29 diplomatic allies, five in Asia, two in Europe, eight in Africa and 14 in the Americas. President Chen Shui-bian stressed "continuity" and "stability" in our foreign policy both during the meeting arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with ambassadors stationed in the ROC, and when receiving congratulatory delegations after his inauguration. The ROC government will not only honor all the present treaties, agreements and cooperation projects signed with the other nations, but also, on the basis of existing foundations, reinforce cooperation with its diplomatic and friendly allies.
Central and South American Diplomatic Allies:
About half of our diplomatic allies are in Central and South America and the Caribbean region. They constitute one of the most important support of the ROC in the international community. The ROC has strengthened its exchanges and cooperation with all of these countries through exchanges of visits between high-ranking officials, encouraging businesses to invest in the region, and technical assistance, etc.
After gaining observer status at the Central American Parliament and at the Forum of Speakers of Central American Parliaments, we also obtained observer status in the System of Integration of Central America (SICA) on February 1, 2000. This is very helpful to the promotion of our bilateral and multilateral relations in the region's countries.
Diplomatic Allies in Africa
Eight African countries have diplomatic ties with the ROC. Currently, the annual trade volume between the ROC and the whole of Africa is only US$1.6 billion. There is thus tremendous potential and space for further development of bilateral and substantive relations.
In order to strengthen our relations with African diplomatic allies, the ROC government has held commercial exhibitions, provided business information services, improved investment regulations, and encouraged ROC business investments in friendly countries. To help economic development in the region, the ROC government also combines the use of private charities and medical personnel to assist in improving the public health and medical services of these countries. We further provide them with agricultural technology and skills training in the hope of both consolidating our relationships and reviving the local economies.
Diplomatic Allies in Europe
Since the ROC and the Republic of Macedonia established diplomatic relations in January 1999, the two sides have exchanged visits of high-ranking officials many times, and a variety of cooperation projects will be carried out in phases according to the provisions of agreements signed by the two sides. Last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia formally notified the ROC to recommend a candidate for the post of Ambassador according to the provisions of the Vienna Convention, and this process is presently under way.
With respect to our relations with the Holy See, communication channels between the ROC embassy and the Secretariat for Relations with States of the Holy See are working smoothly. As to the rumor about the possible establishment of diplomatic ties between the PRC and the Holy See, our ministry is closely watching the development of the relations between Beijing and the Vatican. It is also checking on the validity of the rumor through a variety of channels. According to my understanding, during the past two decades the Holy See has hoped to be able to tend to the 10 million Catholics in China, and the PRC and the Holy See kept contact through a variety of indirect channels. In the short term, there will still be some disagreements between the PRC and the Holy See on the issues of religious freedom and the appointment of archbishops. The ROC has always attached great importance to religious freedom and enthusiastically participated in international charity activities. We share the values and ideals of the Holy See, and on this basis the new government will do its best to consolidate its relations with the Vatican.
Diplomatic Allies in the Asia Pacific:
The ROC has five diplomatic allies in the Asia-Pacific region. They often speak in support of the ROC in various international organizations and meetings. Among these diplomatic allies, the Republic of Palau established diplomatic relations with the ROC on December 29, 1999. Palau strongly supports the ROC's participation in the international community and the two sides are developing relations based on the principles of equality and reciprocity. Palau President Kumio Nakamura and Nauru President Bernard Dowiyogo came to attend the presidential inauguration of May 20. Various diplomatic allies also sent senior officials such as governor-generals, foreign affairs ministers, or other high-ranking official to come to the ROC to convey their congratulations. This underscores the cordial relations the ROC has with friendly nations in the region.
2. Promoting substantive relations with nations having no
diplomatic ties with the ROC
Most countries only maintain non-official relations with our country because of the actual international political influence bearing on them. Yet in view of its economic clout and brilliant democratic achievements, the international community cannot ignore the existence of the ROC. We currently maintain close economic, cultural and technical cooperation relations with more than 150 countries sharing no diplomatic ties with us. We have 97 representative offices in 63 countries, and among them, 13 offices use the title of the Republic of China while 84 use the title of Taipei.
The ROC and the US share common values and ideals, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always attached great importance to promoting its substantive relations with the US. It keeps close contacts with the US Congress, administration, academic institutions, think tanks and media, as well as with important people from its business circles.
The US Congress has always been friendly to us and has recently passed in succession a variety of acts in favor of the ROC, including acts in support of the upholding our military security and of our rights to participate in international organizations. In January of this year, the US House of Representatives passed the "Taiwan Security Enhancement Act" with an overwhelming majority of 341 votes to 70 votes which underscores the US' support for strengthening the ROC's security.
As to the US administration's upholding of its "one China" policy, the relation with Taiwan do remain based on the "Taiwan Relations Act". After the PRC announced its "White Paper on the Principle of One China and Taiwan Question", the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department all quoted provisions of the "Taiwan Relations Act" to express their positions. They declared that any use force or any threat to use of force to solve the cross-Strait issue will be of grave concern to the United States, and repeatedly publicly asked the PRC to exercise self-control. All of these show the US administration's concern over to the ROC's security.
After the formation of our new government, Americans of all circles said that the content of President Chen Shui-bian's inaugural address as well as our democratic achievements were conducive to the development of constructive cross-Strait dialogue. Although the US clearly said that it will not play the role of mediator between the two sides, it nevertheless will remain engaged in helping to create an environment for cross-Strait dialogue in order to insure the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region. Our government will continue to strengthen its substantial ties with the US in order to maintain Taiwan's peace and security.
At present, our relations with Japan are stably developing. Japan has improved its visa treatment toward ROC citizens for the second consecutive year. In addition, both sides have reached agreements on increasing flights, the clearance of customs, and the transfer of technology. Moreover, from a geopolitical point of view, Japan is very concerned about peace in the Taiwan Strait. Although Japan held summits with the PRC in 1998 and in 1999, it did not make any new pronouncement on the so-called "Taiwan Question" that were derogative to the ROC. Judging from Japan's responses to the PRC's publication of the "White Paper on the Principle of One China and Taiwan Question", the result of the presidential election, and to President Chen Shui-bian's inaugural speech, Japan's position of hoping that the two sides solve cross-Strait issues through peaceful means remains unchanged. The ROC government will continue to strengthen its interaction with all sectors of Japan to further enhance mutual understanding and exchanges.
When he received a South Korea's Kyung Nam University delegation headed by its president, President Chen said that the two countries ought to improve bilateral relations. He suggested that they need to take a pragmatic attitude and raise contact levels before discussing the reopening of air links and the promotion of economic cooperation. The Kim Dae Jung administration has repeatedly expressed its willingness to improve substantive ties with Taipei. Our government welcomes such statements and hopes that South Korea will soon promote exchange of visits between high-ranking officials to enhance mutual understanding and conduct talks on the basis of equality and reciprocity so as to effectively solve problems of traffic links and other economic issues.
The ROC has maintained close contact with major European countries in the areas of trade, culture, technology, education, tourism and navigation. The two sides have enjoyed close substantive relations with frequent visits by high-ranking government officials. Up to now, 11 countries including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Spain have set up semi-official institutions in Taiwan staffed with professional diplomats from their respective governments. With regards to our relations with the European Union, the European Commission has made it a priority to set up an EC office in Taiwan. The European Parliament has also passed several resolutions in support of our bid to join international organizations.
Following our presidential election, the European Parliament adopted an urgent resolution on April 14. Apart from complimenting us for our democratic achievements and requesting Beijing to solve cross-strait issues peacefully, the resolution also "called on EU Member States and the Commission to step up their relations with Taiwan with a view to securing better representation for Taiwan in international fora (including the WTO) and to open a European Commission Representative office in Taipei". The adoption of this resolution underscores the European Parliament's support for Taiwan's democratic development and security.
Although North European nations have always kept a neutral stance in international affairs, it is worth noting that they have spared no efforts in supporting democracy. As the North European nations advocate highly of freedom and human rights, we should strengthen our interaction with this region to gather more support from foreign countries.
. ROC's relations with countries without diplomatic ties
In terms of our relations with Southeast Asian nations, Taiwanese investments in this region topped US$40 billion during the past decade. Taiwan has become a major investor in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, due to Beijing's obstruction we have not been able to join this region's security mechanism. In the future, our government will strengthen its interaction with Southeast Asian nations and take the initiative to establish a dialogue mechanism with them via Track Two or Track Three diplomatic channels so as to step up mutual exchanges and cooperation.
As for our ties with nations of West Asia, we are focusing on setting up more offices in Russia, concluding the ROC-Russia air agreement at the earliest possible date, and maintaining sound interaction with the oil-producing countries of the Middle East.
In recent years, Central and East European nations have conducted political and economic reforms and begun talks to join the EU. Noting that these countries have great potential to become important players in the international arena, we will enhance our efforts to strengthen our relations with Central and East European nations as well as the Baltic states.
In terms of our relations with the third world nations, we will actively promote the Taiwan Experience to assist in the economic development of these nations based on our sincerity to contribute to the international community. We hope to take further steps to develop friendly ties with these countries on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit.
3. Active participation in international organizations and related activities
At present, we have official member status in 16 inter-governmental international organizations and 970 international non-governmental organizations. A total of 30 NGOs have set up headquarters or secretariats in Taiwan. From the second half of 1999 to the end of April 2000, we hosted or participated in 951 NGO meetings as well as joined 384 non-governmental international activities. It is our long-term goal to join the United Nations. At present, our goals are to actively participate in other functional and regional international organizations, to assist domestic private organizations in joining NGOs, and to promote our legal rights and status in the international organizations that we have already joined.
Our application to become a member of the United Nations is closely related to our status and rights in the international community. In the past six years, our applications to join the UN failed to be included in the UN's General Assembly's plenary agenda due to Beijing's obstruction. However, in pursuit of our national interests, the new administration will continue to promote our bid to join the UN. Meanwhile, we will seek various channels to join or sponsor the activities of UN special agencies.
With regards to our bid to join the World Health Organization, we have, as of May 2000, applied to become an observer with the WHO for four consecutive years. However, Beijing's obstruction prevented our case from being included in the WHA's plenary agenda. Since this case greatly affects the personal health, public health and national interests of our people, my ministry has mapped out mid and long-term work plans to promote our case in European and North American countries. We will continue to urge the participation of the civilian sector in the WHO bid campaign.
After years of hard work, our application to join the World Trade Organization has reached the final stage. In terms of bilateral procedures, we have completed bilateral negotiations with 26 members that requested talks with us. To date, only Hong Kong has yet to sign an agreement with us. In terms of multilateral procedures, the WTO has called for ten working group meetings and three unofficial working group meetings on our application. We have yet to conclude the last working group meeting before our working group report and accession protocol are adopted. Once the General Council accepts our application, we will proceed to complete the ratification and deposition procedures and then become a full member. However, Beijing has repeatedly stressed that it should enter the WTO ahead of Taipei. Thus the majority of WTO members delayed our case because of Beijing's attitude. After Beijing signed agreements with the US and the EU, it still needs to complete bilateral talks with five members. The US House of Representatives approved granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations on May 24, and the Senate is expected to vote on this issue in the near future. We expect smoother progress on Beijing's accession to the WTO. My Ministry will keep on watching closely the progress of Beijing's accession and continue requesting support from WTO members to allow Taiwan to join this organization at the earliest possible date.
As a major trade partner and investor in East Asia, the ROC has always played an active role in various APEC activities. Last September, our proposal entitled "Economic Revitalization through Start-up Companies and Venture Capital" was incorporated in the joint statement of APEC's Ministerial Meeting. Our government then gathered opinions from various sectors to map out relevant working points which were reported and adopted by the first senior officials' meeting this year. In May 2000, my ministry held a seminar on venture capital and representatives from 15 members attended this meeting in Taiwan. We are presently planning another seminar on related issues in October of this year and will report the results of our research to the APEC annual economic leaders' meeting and its annual ministerial meeting in November. Our future goal is to increase our participation in the group's meetings and activities
4. Outlook for the ROC's diplomatic efforts
President Chen stressed on May 15 that under current international circumstances, the government should, in dealing with cross-Strait and foreign relations, uphold the following three principles: "looking beyond partisan interests, seeking consensus among all people, and pursuing national interests". Following this line of thinking, I think our foreign policy should go beyond the dispute over unification or independence. Instead, we should try to make the most of the Taiwan Experience. On the one hand, we will share Taiwan's political and economic achievements with developing countries and take initiatives to cooperate with the democratic camp. On the other hand, in order to more effectively safeguard our national sovereignty and security, we should establish partnerships with domestic and foreign civilian groups that can help expand our international cooperation targets and contact levels, while at the same time enable us to make concrete contributions to global peace and prosperity. Furthermore, in the context of globalization we have to adopt more creative and flexible foreign policy strategies that can meet the demands of a fast changing international environment. Based on the aforementioned points, I have outlined the following directions for our future diplomatic work:
1. Using democracy and our economic achievements as an axis,
we will create a mechanism for all people to participate in diplomatic work.
We want to integrate the resources of both the government and the civilian sector
to strengthen cooperation with our diplomatic allies and enhance substantive
relations with countries having no diplomatic ties with us. At the same time,
as a means to feed back to the international community, we will seek to actively
participate in international human rights, humanitarian relief and democratic
2. We will seek effective channels to participate in international organizations and activities. With joining the UN as our long-term objective, the participation in functional international organizations is our primary goal at the present stage. Through hosting of and active participation in various international conferences and activities, we can promote the international community's understanding and support for Taiwan, and enhance Taiwan's influence in international affairs.
3. We will strengthen our efforts in publicizing Taiwan's outstanding achievements in economic development and political democratization to make the international community understand better the significant role we can play.
4. As another means of expanding Taiwan's space in the diplomatic arena, we will strengthen our efforts in offering care and emergency services to our nationals living or travelling overseas in order to be able to solicit more support from overseas nationals, academics and business people.
5. We will strengthen foreign policy research and planning work. We plan to pool the wisdom and experience of both domestic and foreign academics and think-tanks in designing the strategies and concrete means for an all-people diplomacy, as well as to enhance the understanding and participation of all sectors of society in diplomatic work.
6. On the principle of providing convenient services to the people, we plan to simplify the application procedures for passports and visas, to fully implement computerization of visa applications, and to continue requesting from foreign countries that they improve visa-issuing procedures for our nationals.
7. We will attach more importance to the system of ambassadors-at-large and to civilian sector participation mechanisms. We plan to encourage the elites in different fields to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its drive to revitalize and enhance its professional image. Meanwhile, we will also expand the scope of training of diplomatic talents so as to begin a new page of all-people diplomacy.
In recent years, Taiwan's democratic and economic achievements have won recognition from the entire world. Take democratization as an example: in its 1999 evaluation report of political freedom in the world's nations, the American human rights group Freedom House again listed us as a "free nation". Furthermore, the US' world human rights report 2000 says that Taiwan performed outstandingly in democratic progress, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. In terms of economic development, the ROC, with a per capita income of US$13,400, is now the world's 18th largest economy and 15th largest trading nation. The report by BERI, Switzerland, ranks Taiwan's overall investment climate third in the world. According to indicators of economic liberty jointly published by the US Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal in January 2000, Taiwan is ranked the world's 11th freest economy. The 1999 survey of the World Economic Forum ranks Taiwan 4th in macroeconomic competitiveness, and 19th in microeconomic competitiveness. With the above achievements in both political and economic areas, Taiwan ought to feedback more actively to the international community. This is an expectation of our people as well as a duty for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During our presidential election, Beijing unceasingly and actively threatened us by using force with a view to influencing the results of the election. After the election, Beijing persisted in sending its message of bluffing, requesting the international community not to dispatch representatives or ambassadors to attend President Chen's inauguration ceremony. Nevertheless, with the joint efforts of the government and the entire people, we successfully completed the presidential election. A total of 73 countries and international organizations sent 972 people (95 delegations) to attend the inauguration ceremony. This is a victory for our nation, and a victory for freedom and democracy.
After the establishment of the new government, Beijing will undoubtedly make more efforts in blocking our diplomatic space. Meanwhile, the world will pay even more attention to cross-Strait relations and to our foreign policy. My colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I will do our utmost and take advantage of our democratic and economic edge as well as pool the resources of the civilian sector to enhance our bilateral relations with foreign countries, and to promote our participation in functional international organizations and non-governmental organizations. We will increase our participation in international activities in order to strive for the international status and rights that we deserve, to ensure our national interests and our people's welfare, as well as to promote regional peace and prosperity.
This concludes my report. Please feel free to offer your comments. Thank you!