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John Roughan: Solomon's Taiwan Connection

Solomon's Taiwan Connection


By John Roughan
25 October 2004
Honiara

A subject of concern for citizens should be to discuss the growing importance of the Red Dragon, mainland China, to our neck of the woods. I share with readers my unease with our present (past ones as well) government's handling of the colossus to the North. China, like the huge elephant it is, doesn't easily forget public slights to its perceived dignity. The Solomons, publicly pulling on the dragon's tail by our strident insistence for Taiwan's re-entry to the UN family, is one indignity it will neither forget nor forgive quickly.

The USA continues to operate a two-China policy but with its military might, unrivalled economic clout and the American religious-right vote, it has both the capability and the 'moral' superiority to push such a policy. When it comes to the USA's standing guard for Taiwan, Red China just grins and bears it but awaits the day to make the Americans pay for all these many years of humiliation and disdain.

Last time I looked, however, it didn't seem to me that Solomons had much going when it comes to protecting itself from mainland China. In fact, just the opposite. We're sitting ducks! Of course our brave 'leaders' work on the theory that Taiwan's money comes rent free. In reality Big Brother sitting in Pejing only waits to pounce upon us at a time of its choosing. Then the real costs of our Taiwanese love affair over many years will come due.

I am not calling upon our leaders to dump Taiwan but I do seek some kind of informed debate. The only time our nation held some kind of public discussion over our relations with Taiwan and its meaning for mainland China was during the Sogavare government years when our Foreign Minister travelled to Hong Kong to barter away our UN vote. Keep our people, especially our youth who will surely pay the full costs not only of Taiwan's loans but more importantly the pressures which the giant to the North will exact, informed. The inherent dangers posed by the Red Dragon.in the near future must be understood and weighed.

Taiwanese money has never been cost free! Yes, the politicians who now wallow in it, suffer little or no pain. It's our young people who currently experience few if any benefit of Taiwan's largess who will surely be required to pay for it. We must enter into the future with our eyes opened. Our government's strong backing of Taiwan to re-enter the UN family is a laudable stance for any nation.

But mainland China's 600 missals aimed at Taiwan's heart at this very moment is a sign of how dangerous and critical the present situation has become. America's military presence in the Southeast China seas acts as a restraining force on China. We in the Solomons, on the other hand, have no such protector. Our smallness and distance from mainland China help a bit. Yet, how many of our people are aware of this dangerous situation? Our leaders, on the other hand, blithely act as if nothing is amiss . . . a bit like the man who jumps off a 15 floor building and thinks everything is fine while passing the 10th floor.

The major reason why this sensitive subject is kept quiet is the fact that in 2003 alone, more than $70 million of Taiwan money has sloshed through our economy. Most of these millions have wound up in the hands of ministers, back benchers and friends. Of course these leaders want to keep a tight lid on any discussion concerning Taiwan's financial backing to those currently in power. As RAMSI tightens up the country's finances more and more, politicians are finding it more difficult to fiddle with national funds as in past years.

Taiwan's continuous gift monies, moreover, now that we are entering the election season, become all the more important to cash-starved politicians. In the lead up to the next national election, where else would ministers, backbenchers and cronies come up with enough funds to buy their way back into power. Certainly few of them can point to a great track record of serving their people. No, only the clout of big dollars given away as if it were going out of style will win the day. A public discussion on benefits and costs of our Taiwan connection is long overdue.

ENDS

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