2015年9月17日 星期四

Taiwan out in the cold as China muscles in on Central American nations 2007.9

muscle in
 phrasal verb INFORMAL
to force your way into a situation and make certain you are included, although you are not wanted:
I hear Mark's muscled in on our meeting.

Asia: Taiwan out in the cold as China muscles in on Central American nations

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica--As China's continuing economic boom strengthens its push to become the next global superpower, it has started flexing its muscle in Central and South America to cut Taiwan's relationship with strategically important countries in the region.
Costa Rica, lured by the promise of China's largesse, broke off its ties with Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with the world's most populous nation in early June. The transfer of allegiance cut the number of countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan to 24.
The Taiwanese government, unable to compete with China's buckets of money or its considerable trade opportunities, fears other countries will soon follow suit. China, meanwhile, has all but admitted that it is running a campaign to shut Taiwan out of parts of the world community.
And in Central America, several countries are watching closely to see who will be next to switch diplomatic ties.
Situated 1,150 meters above sea level, the Costa Rican capital San Jose enjoys cool breezes even in summer. On July 5, however, staff members of the Taiwanese Embassy in a residential district of the city were too busy working up a sweat to enjoy the breeze. They had just one day to clean up and close the embassy.
Piles of garbage, including documents, old computers and fans, were stacked up in the compound.
One of the staff members lamented, "We burned documents that had been kept for 63 years, and even threw away our national flag. We are discarding everything. I'm very sad."
China had already established diplomatic ties with Costa Rica, when it sent interim ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan to visit in the middle of June.
"China, which holds 188 times the land of Costa Rica and 325 times its population, can provide limitless possibilities (to Costa Rica)," the interim ambassador was quoted as saying by local newspapers here.
He also said the Chinese Red Cross will send $30,000 (about 3.6 million yen) in relief funds to Costa Ricans who suffered serious damage from heavy rains.
On June 6, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias announced at a news conference that his country would break off diplomatic ties with Taiwan. He also revealed that Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno Ugarte secretly flew to Beijing to establish diplomatic ties on June 1.
Shortly before the June 6 news conference, the Costa Rican government notified Taiwanese authorities that the formal relationship between Costa Rica and Taiwan was over.
"In return for the new friendship, China gave Costa Rica $430 million (about 52 billion yen) in aid, including the write-off of part of Costa Rica's debt to China," Taiwanese officials said.
The amount is more than 10 percent of the national budget of Costa Rica.
China even covered part of the expenses of the Costa Rican foreign minister's June mission to Beijing.
Taiwan, for its part, donated 75 police vehicles to Costa Rica earlier this year. It had also accepted more than 10 students annually from Costa Rica for free. In the northwestern part of Costa Rica, a "bridge for friendship" was built with donations from Taiwan.
But gifts such as these could not compete with the apparently bottomless well of money that the newly resurgent China has at its disposal.
Joseph Wu, former chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, complained that the battle has become a "money game."
Costa Rican President Arias would not disagree. In recent days he has even admitted that, "If you want to make a friend, you have to be more generous," and "China will help us more."
Costa Rica's exports to China were worth about $1 billion in 2006, which is 26 times the value they represented five years ago. As a result, China became Costa Rica's second-largest trading partner after the United States.
The exports are also worth 10 times as much as exports to Taiwan. Costa Rica's total trade with China is six times as large as that with Taiwan.
"The 21st century is the century of China. We hope that China will conclude a free trade agreement with us and support our participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum," said Costa Rican Foreign Minister Stagno.
In the Central America and Caribbean Sea regions, there are still 11 countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Along with Panama, Costa Rica is regarded as one of the "economic powers" of Central America. Observers are watching closely to see whether its change of allegiance will trigger a domino effect in the region.
Speculation is spreading that Panama and Nicaragua might be next. The two were conspicuously absent from the general assembly meeting of the World Health Organization held in May this year to vote on Taiwan's admission to the body.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica's decision dominated news in Taiwan. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry officials said it was the biggest shock since South Africa made a similar move in 1997.
The shock was doubled by the comment from Costa Rica's president that Taiwan needed to be more generous.
Interviewed by Taiwanese reporters, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said, "Taiwan cannot offer such a large amount of financial assistance as China does."
Offers of extensive technological assistance have not been enough to enable Taiwan to overcome its considerable financial disadvantage.
Nor has its appeal to the importance of democratic government.
China is now intensifying its efforts to destroy Taiwan's diplomatic ties with other countries, and Taiwan is apparently losing the battle.
Since Chen took office as president in May 2000, Taiwan has established diplomatic ties with three countries but lost them with eight.
Even experts in the United States, which is a supporter of Taiwan, are keeping their distance.
One of them, Derek Mitchell, senior fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: "Our view is this is a silly game. It has very little impact on overall stability across the strait (between China and Taiwan)."
However, Taiwan is so determined to maintain its presence on the world stage that it cannot abandon the battle.
In the days before and after the closure of its embassy in Costa Rica, Taiwanese authorities hastily sent Vice President Annette Lu to three countries in Central and South America and in the Caribbean Sea--Guatemala, Paraguay and Dominica--in an attempt to prevent a domino effect.
Lu promised them that Taiwan would offer additional help for the construction of medical and port facilities.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the shift in Central America away from Taiwan to China was part of a "world trend."
In a regular news conference held immediately after Costa Rica broke off its ties with Taiwan, Qin also said China was interested in Nicaragua, which was reported to have approached China.
"The people of China hold heart-felt amicable feelings (to the people of Nicaragua)," Qin said.
A day earlier, China also revealed that it was interested in Panama. Shanghai's top politician Xi Jinping, who is regarded as a possible successor to President Hu Jintao, met delegates from Panama.
China's "weapons" in the battle to lure foreign countries are its investment potential and its "huge market of 1.3 billion people."
For the Communist Party leadership of China, continued economic growth is necessary to maintain its one-party rule. The country needs natural resources to make that happen--so like African countries, those in Central and South America are also strategically important.
Tao Wenzhao, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "Costa Rica's shift (from Taiwan to China) has given Taiwanese authorities a fear of a domino effect."

domino and domino theory

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Tsuyoshi Nojima in Taipei and Nobuyoshi Sakajiri in Beijing contributed to this article.(IHT/Asahi: September 6,2007)