Letters & Opinion

Domestic and Foreign Policy Approach is Revisited — Part 4

De-emphasizing Differences and Highlighting Common Possibilities

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

If anything, the third virtual summit between the Chinese and American presidents has shown, crystal-clear, that when it comes to their strategic interests, both sides won’t blink or bow any way – and neither will start a deadly war that can end-the-world.

Beijing and Washington both know there’s more to benefit from working together than fighting, each acutely aware that the world’s future is in cooperation to face mutual and common challenges that also threaten Humankind.

For 50 years, Beijing and Washington have stared each-other down over Taiwan, but also successfully avoided pressing any wrong buttons that could have launched that avoidable and unwanted Third World War, during which period Taiwan has been both a thorn in Beijing’s side and a shining example of how nice it can be – for all — when hostilities are put aside in favour of cooperation.

Another lesson from the Xi-Biden Summit was the futility of third parties taking sides in the internal affairs of the mainland and the island by siding with one or another, or one against the other, on anything.

China’s Taiwan policy under Xi has seen Beijing roundly embrace Taipei (between 2008 and 2016) when both sides agreed to de-emphasize their differences and highlight common possibilities.

The message to the rest of the world is simple: Mind your business and keep your eyes on your strategic interests.

This is the second Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration to inherit ties with Taipei and in its first 100 days has shown a level of diplomatic flexibility that’s left everyone happy.

It’s been able, among other things, to redirect already-allocated funds to new areas considered more beneficial to the wider populace, in keeping with the administration’s intent on delivering on the SLP’s solemn election promise to Put People First.

In its manifesto, the SLP promised to establish the Ministry of the Youth Economy to provide fiscal incentives to young entrepreneurs through readily-accessible financing, as well as marketing support for their products and services locally, regionally and internationally.

The SLP also promised to “encourage programmes that support skills training, mentorship and the development of young people’s emotional intelligence” and “to ensure the Youth Economy is an integral part of the wider economy, to create a young indigenous business class that can enhance local wealth creation.”

The SLP also promised to “Establish a separate ministry — the Ministry of the Youth Economy — to administer the programs and activities of the Youth Economy…”

True to that promise, the new government added the new ministry to the Prime Minister’s portfolio and Taiwan has committed $5.4 million to get things started.

Taiwan assistance is also helping the Labour-led administration to Put People First through the $10 million National Housing Assistance Program, $3.3 million to the banana industry (for the next financial year) and $1.66 million for the Constituency Development Program (CDP).

Taiwan has also thus far, in the new dispensation, provided technology support in education, COVID-19 technical assistance and medical supplies, technical assistance and Central Government funding.

The two islands resumed diplomatic relations in 2007, advancing cooperation in agriculture, culture, economy, health care, infrastructure, trade and global partnerships.

But since then, requests for Taiwan assistance to Saint Lucia have been fashioned by the respective governments’ policy priorities.

Under Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony, Labour administrations sought to ensure assistance was delivered through official channels and not directly to politicians, while adopting engaging it’s stated ‘non-interference’ policy position on relations between Beijing and Taipei.

Indeed, under Dr Anthony from 2011 to 2016, Taiwan’s ties with Saint Lucia were as bright as with China under the previous Taipei administration.

But between 2016 and 2021 Saint Lucia returned to the old ways (of Taiwan assistance meant for people and projects ending-up in undesignated places and pockets, or remaining simply unaccounted for, up-to-now…)

Under the Pierre administration, emphasis has shifted to ensuring Taiwan’s assistance is redirected to areas more beneficial to the wider majority than to preferred contractors, following the numbers along the money trail to see where missing dollars went and restoring an element of trust where Taiwanese tax dollars are concerned.

As expected, the new administration is also expressing support for Taiwan on the world stage where possible.

Everyone should expect Saint Lucia to remain the friend of Taiwan that it’s been since 2007, but no one should expect the new administration to become embroiled in the ongoing 50-year-old cross-channel dispute between the mainland and the island, especially after the two major players have warned everybody else to not expect what the world has been brought to expect over recent times – a war over Taiwan.

Diplomacy has never been only about diplomats being able to tell people to ‘Go to Hell’ in such a nice way they would actually look forward to the trip.

It also involves telling the truth raw and unvarnished, as both China and the USA have so many times demonstrated, especially over Taiwan.

The USA and China have both also demonstrated, over time that ruling parties’ main priority in office is and should always be to deliver on election promises.

So, Saint Lucia leveraging Taiwan’s help to deliver on its main Putting People First election promises is nothing out-of-the-blue.

Indeed, the Saint Lucia government owes it to the majority of voters on July 26 (who elected to vote for the SLP’s Manifesto promises) to find a practical mechanism to ensure that as much as possible, ministers and ministries do all they can, all the time, to keep Putting People First.

This also means that there has to be a link between the SLP’s international affairs policy while in office and giving life to the Manifesto promises that voters will be counting — and counting on delivery of — ahead of the next General Elections, when they will again have a choice of engaging in Regime Change, or finally settling for continuity on the basis of delivery.

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