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Reflection on SI, Taiwan & China

23 September 2019
Seth Gukuna

     As the pro-Chinese emphatically exclaimed “Its China”, Island Sun headline last Tuesday said it all; “September 16 - A sad day”. 

Yes, I agree, it’s a sad day indeed.

     A relationship that we worked hard together to develop over nearly four decades had abruptly disappeared, taken away by a government that had to succumb to a pro-China report authored by the pro-Chinese themselves in place of consultation, a type of government that played into the hands of the pro-Chinese who had desired China for so long.

      Presumably, our relationship with Taiwan over the years had been based on our mutual recognition of democratic principles. 

Together we stood and protested in international gatherings for the world to accord Taiwan the dignity that most democratic countries are now taking for granted only for the economic clout of communist China to constantly prevent us from being heard. 

      Over time, our emphasis shifted to our economic and social exchanges which were supposed to be mere spinoffs of our commonalities. 

With or without our knowledge, this shift helped slowly built the for-China case in our pro-Chinese who had wanted more from these exchanges.

     The Taiwanese knew that the shadow of China was hovering above our islands since the inception of this current government but were hoping that we would stand our ground as we did over the past thirty-six years. 

It was not to be the case this time. We turned our backs on the only beacon of democracy known to the Chinese world when they needed us most.             

      Though glad tidings to the Chinese believers, I sense some discomfort in this government decision. But in spite of this, the decision should have brought out the good in us instead of the bad after all we were dealing with human beings we once treasured as our best friends.

      After years of being placed at the edges, this decision has in some way relieve Taiwan from the political bickering and accusations of unethical aid programs that it had to endure during most of our years together. 

This should also relieve some of our NGOs from having to constantly accuse Taiwan of using its grants to enrich our leaders. They can now look forward to some more credible aids from China. 

      I have stated before that China will not beat the economic and social benefits we been getting from Taiwan. Apparently this, with a hansom last minute aid donation was not enough to dissuade the illusions that the heavens will fall on us from Beijing.

      Many of our citizens remained uncertain whether to thank the government or Taiwan given what had happened. The wide public emotions displayed in our streets and the social media can however only attest to our appreciation for the assistance that Taiwan has given us over the past years and our preference for Taiwan.

      With Taiwan finally gone for good, this is no time to ask what’s next? For good or for worse, it is time to pursue the promised Chinese dream, a dream that continues to invoke mixed feelings around the world yet attractive enough to have deluded our leaders into forgetting our students abroad, our farmers who had been due to receive needed assistance from Taiwan and our rural constituents.

      Another dream has been invoking passion around the world: the American Dream. This dream only thrives on human freedom and dignity, the exact God-given values we aspire to share as a nation. 

The enabling environment for this dream is only found in America hence one can only pursue and enjoy this dream in America, the Land of the Free.

      Quite unlike the American dream, the Chinese dream is driven by ideologies that do not tolerate human freedom and dignity. The enabling environment for the Chinese dream is only found in China yet there are little incentives for one to pursue the Chinese dream in China. 

The people who amassed in China are largely desperate foreigners looking for hard earned cash to feed their families back in their home countries.

      Instead of pursuing the Chinese dream in China, the Chinese themselves are flocking in mass with the rest of the free world to America to pursue the American dream. 

Even in this poor third world country, hundreds of other Chinese are finding it far better a place for them to pursue their own kinds of dreams.

      Many African countries and our small isolated pacific islands neighbours were at some stage been here at where we are at right now full of hope and looking forward for the China experience. 

Details of the deal that brought us here too are still largely unknown but there is no reason to suggest that our deal will be any different from theirs.

      The arts of their done deals have given rise to impressive public buildings, stadiums and roads that have been described as leading to nowhere in the pacific islands and helped improved rail transport systems, wharves and more buildings in Africa most of them being funded with soft loans from China. 

      Just like any other loan, the true glamour of these so called cheap loans is not so much in the infrastructures they helped funded; it is the ease of repaying them. As nearly all of these infrastructures are related to public interests, the tasks of repaying these loans rest on public budgeting. 

      Countries that obtained soft Chinese loans are having difficulties in repaying their soft-loans. China has not shown any meaningful interests in these burdens nor the effects of their cheap loans on local debt markets. 

They have instead demanded, in some cases control of infrastructures critical to their national identities.

      Living the American dream can only happen in America where success is ensured under the powers of the United States of America. 

Successes of the Chinese dream on the other hand are not directly assured by China as they are left almost entirely for the Chinese dreamers’ own making. This has been proven to be a hard call on dreamers of small and under-performed economies.            

        The pro-Chinese in this country had been eyeing Chinese capital for some time; they see them as our only hope for acquiring the type of infrastructures that are now dilapidating in our pacific islands neighbours never mind the burdens that these capital and infrastructures continue to impose on their public budgets. 

      The pro-Chinese will also be looking for Chinese capital to revive some of our past development ideas contending that they had failed because of lack of capital. Instead of looking inward, some of our leaders continue to blame our foreign friends for abating our failures. 

They blamed them for not providing enough capitals to help boost our economy as if they are duty-bound to improve our own economy. Taiwan paid the ultimate price even though it was doing its bit.

      No one can underestimate the positive relationships between infrastructures and economic growths. But as seen in other countries, these relationships are not that straightforward. 

It has now clear to them that the kinds of capital they long dreamed would lift them out of their economic woes were not quite the same as in their dreams. 

      This country has been blessed with many friends and credible institutions from abroad who continue to strive with us to find solutions to our economic needs. 

At times they brought in their own resources to help us through only for some of our leaders to turn around and accuse them for interfering in our affairs and for being the causes of our failures.          

       In the late-90’s CEMA, our copra giant then made a decision to purchase three huge cargo vessels to expand its transport infrastructures in the hope of encouraging more growths on top of levels that were at their best at that time. 

Over two years, the rising costs of operating those vessels overwhelmed the Authority into near extinction with the vessels all ended up ditched and littering our front beaches. 

      We may have been looking too far for solutions. The kinds of infrastructures and capitals we dreamed of will not necessarily give us the solutions we desperately need. In the case of CEMA, its decision appeared sound and businesslike. But on the ground, it panned out the opposite to the severe detriment of the entity. 

      One of our national leaders may have summed it well recently. May be what we needed all along are new ideas and innovative leadership. 

After all, the global setting keeps evolving, the business world is now being driven by new ideas and sharing of information and even the richest companies on earth continue to depend on innovative leadership to sustain their successes. 

The least we need at this age are self-righteous leaders who continue to blame others for their faults and refuse to accept the obvious inclinations for change.      

      Politically, Taiwan had lost a friend with a loud voice which it relied on in good faith for so long; China on the other hand has gained a voice it does not need. 

With us moving to Chine, we choose to forego our political leverage which had been all along with Taiwan to become just another minced in the huge China mix. The onus is now on China and its local believers here to prove that the tough decision we took last week was not a mistake.

       We have bear witnessed to many countries being disappointed that their pursuits of the Chinese dream had not turned out the way they were told despite giving it their best shots. 

As we lined up to give it a shot, we must not forget their experiences and accept that our switch to China does not mean that our toils would not all be plain sailing from here on. 

       Our constitution guarantees this country the same values that continue to make the American dream the most sought in the world. 

As we marched into the future with our eyes fixed on those values, may it be our earnest desire that one day we will be able to attract the world to our very own dream. Until that day, let us hope that our dance with a new dragon will truly grants us the resilience we need to behold that dream the soonest.

By Seth Gukuna






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