Tuesday 12 Oct 2021 | 00:26 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 12 Oct 2021 | 00:26 | SYDNEY

Taiwan White Paper on aid: Detente gets a boost


Fergus Hanson


12 May 2009 09:32

Some interesting news from Taiwan. It has released its promised aid White Paper, which is a sign that the hope for a diplomatic truce between China and Taiwan, discussed here previously, might have legs. As I've noted, the prospect of a detente has been on the cards since the election of President Ma, who has taken a far more conciliatory approach to relations with China. 

The rhetoric in the White Paper sounds encouraging:

President Ma Ying-jeou has called on the government to adhere to appropriate motives, due diligence, and effective practices when offering assistance. With this in mind the government has been seeking ways to promote progressive partnerships and sustainable development with Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and friendly countries, thereby further consolidating bilateral relations with them. The government adopts the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness as its guideline for establishing cooperation models that meet professional standards and are result-oriented so that Taiwan’s foreign aid will fully conform to international practices and expectations.

If implemented, that offers potentially enormous benefits to countries like Australia that have long criticised China and Taiwan for undermining development efforts in the Pacific through their diplomatic competition. It also throws down a challenge to China. Will the truce lead both countries to move towards greater transparency and effectiveness in their aid programs? China has signed on to a localised version of the Paris Declaration — the Kavieng Declaration in PNG. So far there have been few signs it is keeping to that commitment. Changes in Taiwan's approach might force China's hand.  

Another opportunity for Australia comes through cooperation with Taiwan in the Pacific. There are indications this may already be under discussion, and as I suggested in this Lowy Institute Analysis, it would be good to try and do the same with China.

But it's not all plain sailing. There have been backhanded warnings to China that Taiwan might consider broadening its approach to aid by giving to countries other than its diplomatic partners, provided China adheres to the truce.

And President Ma isn't about to let up with his efforts to hold on to his country's remaining diplomatic allies. He is scheduled to spend six days in El Salvador, including attendance at the Presidential inauguration. That could be an awkward few days: before his election President-elect Mauricio Funes said he'd rather be with China than Taiwan. In July, President Ma is heading for Panama, another Taiwanese ally.