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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Reject Beijing’s predations in Asia

Reject Beijing’s predations in Asia

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A source in the Executive Yuan on Tuesday said that the US’ aim in including Taiwan in its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region was to contain Chinese expansionism, and that mutual goals in the region were a driving force behind cooperation between the nations on infrastructure projects in developing countries.

Taiwanese policymakers for the past several weeks have been weighing how a change in the US administration would affect Taipei’s ties with Washington, particularly in terms of US support in the face of increasing Chinese aggression.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said that the nation’s US policy would remain unchanged, and academics have argued that the US’ Taiwan policies would also likely remain the same, given a high degree of support for Taiwan across both of the major US political parties.

Adding weight to those claims, Taiwan and the US on Friday last week held their first Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, and afterward signed a five-year memorandum of understanding, pledging to establish teams to tackle issues including infrastructure and energy.

China has in the past few years stepped up its investments in Southeast Asia and Oceania to influence policy there, and to drive out Taiwan and the US. An article published on Aug. 4 by what was then the Nikkei Asian Review argued that the threat from Chinese investment of about US$10 billion annually in the region is minimal, as it is still less than half of Japan’s US$24 billion per year.

A report published on Sept. 28 by pri.org said a Belt and Road Initiative project had “forced Cambodians from their land and devastated the environment, hurting the livelihoods of local communities, all under the guise of converting Cambodia into a regional logistics hub and tourist destination” for China.

There have also been reports of Beijing capitalizing on the inability of nations such as Sri Lanka to repay Belt and Road loans to take over key ports.

Obviously this presents a security concern for the US, but beyond that it excludes nations such as Taiwan and the US from engaging with those countries diplomatically. Taipei and Washington must communicate with nations in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania to learn of their development needs, to be able to provide assistance before China can lock in a stranglehold. This would also be in the interests of Australia and New Zealand, and would be cause for a regional alliance of like-minded nations.

One of the major benefits to Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and the US in helping build infrastructure would be to allow south and southeast Asian nations to break free from their reliance on China, and to shift production to a friendly, distributed supply chain.

An Aug. 21 article published on The Diplomat Web site argued that the US must break its dependency on China, as the “high-tech sector is a critical element to both economic and military strength and stability.”

Taiwan is in a good position to cooperate with the US on high-tech design and production, and Southeast Asia is in a good position to handle general manufacturing — provided that Taipei and Washington can assist with infrastructure development.

Shifting the supply chain to southeast and south Asia would allow Taiwan and the US to support the regions, while also overcoming security and supply-chain concerns posed by reliance on China.

The government is likely to seek opportunities for cooperation with the US under the administration of US president-elect Joe Biden. Those opportunities will likely emphasize regional security, but if they can also emphasize a decoupling from China, and an investment in infrastructure in Southeast and South Asia, that will be a boon to industries there, while also benefiting regional security.

Taiwan and its allies must send a clear message that Chinese investment that victimizes its recipients is not welcome.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2020/11/28

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US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks at an event at the White House in Washington on July 7.
Photo: EPA-EFE

US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979.