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June 28, 2017

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'Realpolitik' present in cross-strait relations

Loh I-cheng, a noted retired diplomat, wrote in his column published in a major local newspaper on July 27 that Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state of the United States, played the "China card" against the former Soviet Union on the basis of the principle of "realpolitik."

Although Kissinger denied that had ever coined the term, his pragmatism in ushering in an era of "detent" in the cold war by representing the initiative of the U.S. in successfully establishing an alliance with its long-time ideological, political and military foe — Communist China — through several secret ice-breaking trips was a classical example of the art of diplomacy.

"Realpolitik" means power politics, which in foreign affairs means making foreign policy primarily on its practical bearing on national and international interests. At the time when Kissinger served as national security adviser to President Nixon, Beijing had been emerging as an undisputed major world power to the extent that Washington needed its support in confronting the Communist bloc under the leadership of Moscow. This was why the U.S. decided to befriend China at the expense of Taiwan. In fact, that diplomacy is largely a game of strength is a truism recognized from ancient times.

By coincidence, on the same page of Loh's column, another commentary appeared, praising Ma Ying-jeou's diplomatic achievement in that he was called the "president of the Republic of China (ROC)" by the president of the World Games that just concluded in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. However, the author also presumed that Ma would have been much more pleased if he had been so called by the president of the People's Republic of China (PRC). He urged the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to let the people of Taiwan know how to react more positively to the PRC's "united front" tactic by enabling it to participate in international affairs without Beijing's nod.

To what degree a nation is treated with dignity internationally is in proportion to its recognized strength, militarily, politically or even culturally. Without such recognition, everything it receives from other countries cannot be taken at face value.

Under the present circumstances, even if the PRC should reluctantly agree to call President Ma Ying-jeou by his official title as part of its "united front" maneuvers, it still did not change the status of Taiwan much in the reality of present-day international politics — a tiny island in the Pacific in comparison with its colossal arch foe, the PRC — in that it is considered a non-state by all major powers and with a sluggish economy and not a widely acclaimed democratic system. In a word, what on earth does Taiwan have in terms of "realpolitik" that makes it win global respect as a progressive modern state independent of the giant PRC?

It is earnestly hoped that President Ma's mainland policy will not ultimately deepen the dependence of Taiwan on China, but will help make the island stronger and more prosperous as a state to be reckoned with in the world.

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