Taiwan May Benefit as Republics Break Away : Diplomacy: The Asian nation could offer the new states economic aid in exchange for recognition.
If the Soviet Union breaks up into a series of independent republics, one of the little-noticed, long-term winners could be Taiwan.
A number of U.S. officials and Asia specialists say that with its considerable wealth, Taiwan would be in a position to offer economic aid to new breakaway governments in the Baltics and elsewhere in exchange for some form of diplomatic recognition.
“The new republics are going to need money and they are going to be subject to Taiwan’s blandishments,” one U.S. government analyst predicted.
Taiwan now has $74 billion in foreign-currency reserves, ranking it among the three most cash-flush nations in the world.
Winston Lord, former U.S. ambassador to China, said, “I think Taiwan will try to take advantage of this.” He said that, in addition to economic factors driving the breakaway republics toward Taiwan, officials in the Baltic states might identify with Taiwan’s longstanding history of anti-communism.
Even before the failed coup, Taiwan had been moving to upgrade its relations with the Soviet Union and, in particular, with officials in the republic governments.
“For a couple of years now, they (Taiwan authorities) have been training people in Russian,” says University of Miami political scientist June Teufel Dreyer, a specialist on Taiwan. “Taiwan might be willing to lose some money if it could gain diplomatic recognition. If there were some money in it, why wouldn’t Lithuania vote to recognize Taiwan?”
At the moment, 29 nations recognize Taiwan’s Nationalist government. While that number is small, it represents an increase from the low of only 23 countries in the early- to mid-1980s, after most of the world followed the U.S. example in breaking ties with Taiwan and establishing relations with Beijing’s Communist regime.
Over the last few years, Taiwan has been courting small nations in Africa, the South Pacific and the Caribbean, generally offering economic aid packages as an incentive to woo nations away from their ties with Beijing.
The most recent convert, for example, was the Central African Republic, which restored its ties with Taiwan last spring. China immediately broke off diplomatic relations, announcing in a statement last July 8 that the Central African government had “jeopardized the friendship between the people of China and Central Africa and the cause of China’s reunification.”
In the days immediately after the failed coup in Moscow, several Taiwan officials said publicly that the changes in the Soviet Union could create new opportunities for Taiwan.
“We must take this opportunity to develop business ties with the Soviets,” P. K. Chiang, Taiwan’s vice minister for economic affairs, said last week, according to Taiwan’s China News Agency. He said that Taiwan’s state-run steel, ship-building and power enterprises have prepared lists of commodities that they hope to procure from the Soviets, such as coal, oil, iron ore and aluminum ingots.
The China News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Frederick Chien as saying that “the Republic of China (Taiwan) should help the Soviets tidy up their economic mess.”
This week, Chien, who is traveling in Central America, said that the Taiwan government is watching the situation in the Soviet Union very closely and is trying to establish channels of communication with the new authorities. But he said it is still too early to tell what will happen.