Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” Sept. 11, 2020)

As the elections draw near, the debate whether we should have diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan will heat up. We take you back to our Aug. 5, 2016 column which characterised the debate following the NDP announcement that it will disavow ties with Taiwan, and establish relations with the People’s Republic of China as a “tempest in a teapot”.

We argued then that tactically the announcement would have had more political impact had it come came before the last elections. With SVG reeling from difficult economic times, a compelling argument could have been made to the electorate to “try something new” with the hope that the People’s Republic of China, with all of its economic might, could have injected a much-needed stimulus with offers of infrastructural, educational and other forms of assistance.

In a recent interview on Boom FM, Party Leader Dr Godwin Friday backed away from the proposed switch in relations from Taipei to Beijing, as was proposed by Arnhim Eustace. This development is unfortunate because SVG could do with an injection of developmental assistance, which the Taiwanese refuse to offer.

The story of relationships with Taiwan has its roots in cold war politics. The communist revolution of 1949 in China chased the nationalist forces off the mainland to Taiwan. The United States and other western countries immediately embraced the nationalists, and used it as a capitalist showcase against what was then sold as the failures of socialism in the Soviet Union and China.

The Labour Party of Milton Cato, as well as most of the developing world, followed the cold war mantra of the West, recognised Taiwan and established diplomatic relations. Taiwan was projected as the sole legitimate representative of the Chinese people even though most Chinese lived on the Mainland.

All of this began to unravel after the secret visit of Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, to Beijing in 1971. The United States established relations with China, broke relations with Taiwan and the dollar diplomacy started in earnest. Both Taipei and Beijing began aiding countries that will align with either side.

Currently, the People’s Republic of China has the diplomatic support of most of the independent nations in the world. Taiwan is recognised by only 14 of the 193 nations at the UN, with Belize, Haiti, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and SVG among them.

Taiwan and China are increasingly drawing closer. In fact, 40% of the foreign investment in China is believed to have an origin in Taiwan. The pro-independence government of President Tsai Ing-Wen continues to press the independence claim, but leaders in Beijing have maintained that they will never allow such a move.

China continues its diplomatic offensive to win new friends and to further isolate Taiwan. Certainly, if this effort succeeds, the talk of independence in Taipei will certainly recede.

Four years ago, we argued that the NDP decision to recognise the People’s Republic of China may be a blessing in disguise to our government. “It may offer a unique advantage to the government of PM Gonsalves to press the government of Taiwan for even more developmental assistance. Gonsalves, the skilled politician that he is, should see an opportunity to press for more assistance. The leaders in Taiwan may be hard-pressed to deny more assistance.”

Mr. Eustace’s announcement broke the hegemony which the Taiwanese held over our diplomacy in Asia. With both parties pledging their allegiance, Taipei sat comfortably with the knowledge that no matter what happened in our elections, relations were safe. Dr. Friday’s waffling on the issue has tightened Taiwan’s grip and weakened our negotiating power.

We see no benefit to the NDP or SVG in the change of position, and hope that the opposition party’s decision to downplay the switch is purely tactical.

All parties must now think just a little harder about the pros and cons of these relations. This must be a good thing, especially for those of us in SVG whose thought patterns on so many matters are staggeringly ossified.

This sad state of affairs is reflected in the politicisation of all things and the ways in which people line up based on which party they support. Gonsalves must be worried by the deep levels of anti-communist nonsense spewed by many of his spokesmen and women in their response to the NDP decision. The anti-communism reared its ugly head again when the coronavirus emerged earlier in the year.

Similarly, many progressives were equally sickened that some of the most backwards, reactionary and anti-communist elements, at the toss of a coin, jumped on the Beijing bandwagon. Only yesterday they were loudest in denouncing Gonsalves and the People’s Republic of China as communist, notorious for economic failure and wrecking economies. With the proposed shift by the NDP from Taipei to Beijing, China’s economic might and the supposed benefits that might flow were shamelessly touted.

Plain Talk had always maintained that the assistance our country received from Taiwan was much too low, bearing in mind that our county, for decades, remained a most dependable and stalwart supporter of Taipei. As a matter of principle, we have always advocated the establishment of relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

This was not an anti-Taiwan position. The argument was grounded in the fact that Beijing represents most Chinese people, was sensibly recognised by most independent nations and was the second-largest economic power in the world.

We have entered a new period in our conversation about our relationships with Taiwan and hopefully the rest of the world. The world is too complex a place for knee jerk, emotional responses. Statecraft demands much more. Plain Talk has confidence in a forward-looking, developing SVG. The critical question is: Are we are ready for the task?

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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13 Comments

  1. Just who and what is that undemocratic regime now known as communist China, the administration in mainland China (The CCP) whose military arm is the P.L.A? Is the world sleep walking again, ignoring the nefarious behaviour of a totalitarian regime? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLn3WsTZWIk just as it did the 1930’s?

    As for Taiwan it “warns the regime in China for it flying fighter jets into its airspace and see the flying as a matter of provocation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZQwlTYpBVw provocation that is disturbing the regional peace. The CCP only real friends appears to be Pakistan and North Korea and as to North Korea well, it is hardly different!

    North Korea ‘executes five Economic Ministry workers after they criticised Kim’s policies at a dinner party’https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8723823/North-Korea-executes-five-Economic-Ministry-workers-criticised-Kims-policies.html

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  2. Firstly one should stay clear of mainland china’s attempt at diplomacy like one is staying clear of the plague that they have given the world. Secondly, are we to be just fair-weathered friends to those who are inclined to help us?

    Jomo writes “In a recent interview on Boom FM, Party Leader Dr Godwin Friday backed away from the proposed switch in relations from Taipei to Beijing, as was proposed by Arnhim Eustace”. Dr Godwin Friday was indeed perfectly right in backing away from the opportunism of Arnhim, simply because of mainland china’s cheque book diplomacy.

    The China of the 2020’s is certainly not the China of the recent past, but is one who is bullying its neighbours. There certainly is no unquestionable friendship between Mainland China and Taiwan as jomo has stated, but is rather one of ongoing hostility between these two Asian neighbours as events have shown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6XhSBRH6Is

    We all know that nothing in life is free, but this unprincipled behaviour of “Wolf Warrior” Mainland China, who cares little for the conventions and institutions that were set up after the Second World War is not something SVG should entertain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh9xSA2gOZQ

    This “Wolf Warrior” Mainland China, who cares little for the conventions and institutions of the democratic world, had recently sought to occupy Indian Himalayan border lands, only to be forcefully repulsed by Indian troops. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pmfXPjO8XE should St Vincent and the Grenadines associate itself with today’s rogue nation and its government the CCP? Should we prostitute ourselves with such an unprincipled country?

    The years of shackled slavery was bad enough for the Caribbean and that should have thought us something. Taiwan’s being a neighbour to Mainland China, have not only armed itself against the CCP but have warned this aggressive Mainland China against any attempt at adventurisms in trying to take over the island.

    For all that is, Mainland China nevertheless continues with its build up against Taiwan and elsewhere. Further China is on the move in the South Pacific as well as in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean with its Check book diplomacy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzCqQKnF9Oo with intentions only to loot, plunder and subjugate other nations through its debt trap diplomacy.

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  3. Jomo the world knows mainland China behaves like a mercenary when it comes to trading, to the extent, the USA had to pass laws to secure fairer trade polices. China, by keeping its currency artificially low use this method to dump their products in other countries. Ask the Sri Lankans whose ports has been taken over by mainland China after they have defaulted on their debts, ask also the Zambians whose main electrical company has been taken over for the same reasons . Closer to home ask the Jamaicans, Chinese are now collecting toll on the main highway which they financed.

    We have several students now studying in Taiwan in various fields, ask the African students and others how they were treated before and after the outbreak of covid 19. leases were revoked unceremoniously even after having a lease agreement for years. In summary, China does not play by the rules, not even in trading. St Vincent is a little fish swimming in a small pond and will certainly be gobbled up by he bigger fish. We are better off by far with Taiwan, at least they play by the rules.

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  4. Nathan Jolly Green says:

    Jomo it is such a shame you brag about being house speaker, because you were a total failure in that position. History will not be kind to you when you are dead and gone, people will read about your performance, your failures, and your chickening out.

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  5. Jomo take a look at what China is doing to Muslims and other ethnic groups. The present leader seize control for life which is definitely a dictatorship menu. Blacks in China are discriminated just like in the Us, Canada, the UK and the EU countries.
    Once I had a feeling that people from the East and Africa should not try to enter Europe or other nations, but then had a change in heart when I realize that these same nations invaded Africa and the Eastern Nations many years ago. So I came the conclusion that “what goes around comes around”.
    China grab for world power is not just economics, but also military. So Jomo start learning Chinese.
    Taiwan’s problem seems to be “law and order”. Most of their gifts are for the police. The government should examine what’s in Taiwan that can benefit SVG and ask or pay to get those resources.
    Two motorbikes only benefits a few not the entire nation. More cameras to protect Vincentians is a better gift.

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  6. Nathan Jolly Green, I agree with you and I think he also be commenting on the phrases, you have me in your craw? . And you are nothing. We want to hear u on them.

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  7. Kenton my friend why you assigned an unrelated picture to my comment? This is not a picture of the person who made the above comment. This is a false picture. I will appreciate if you edit it to remove the picture. Thank you

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  8. China is the second largest economy in the world, this is no figment of the imagination it is real. The white Europeans together with America plundered the resources of the world especially the resources of Africa. America has drastically reduced its foreign aid budget yet it continues to spend billions on foreign wars. Any sensible government would ignore the anti- China propaganda from America and its allies and establish diplomatic relations with Bejing. After all, these same countries that are spreading propaganda against China are all lining up to do business with China. Truth be told they love china

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  9. I am from Hungary, Europe and our government has already started strengthening the ties with China in 2011. Since then Chinese companies acquired major Hungarian chemical and telecommunication companies and the latest and biggest investment is a €2.3bn railway modernization project that has many contradictions and raised the suspicion of corruption and there are also serious doubts . The government responded to the accusations by classifying the details of the agreement for 10 years which needless to say did not help lowering the skeptical voices.
    I know the there are not much in common in our countries, but one can see the same pattern when it comes to Chinese diplomacy and foreign investment policy around the world: they tend to approach politicians and governments that are more open to corruption and willing to sell their nation’s interests for “quick money”.
    These governments don’t often consider the long-term effects of the loans they take up but our countries might still have to keep paying them back decades later. As one of the comments above mentioned, just look the example of Sri Lanka.

    https://www.ft.com/content/251314b5-8d6a-4665-a14b-0110dd88754c

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  10. China is a hell hope. I am not an NPD nor labor. I love my country SVG. I am an independent voter. Chinese and China is no good. No freedom of speech. No human rights. That country will take over svg if doing business. They lend countries money that they know the country couldn’t pay back,then they take it over. Stay away from china.

    Reply

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