Former Taiwan’s PM: The EU Should Toughen Up on South China Sea Dispute

Written by | Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Former Prime Minister of Taiwan, Jiang Yi-huah

EUBULLETIN talked in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with former Prime Minister of Taiwan, Mr Jiang Yi-huah, about the current economic headwinds facing Mainland China in light of the potential failure of the Chinese model of economic development but mainly about the South China Sea territorial disputes and the peace-making role that the EU should play in solving this issue.

EUBULLETIN: The Chinese model of economic development has long been criticized by Western powers, including the EU. While the EU seems to be already out of the woods, China currently has to deal with its own share of economic problems, which have also led to the devaluation of Yuan. China has, for example, accumulated lots of debt, many of the largest corporations are still state-owned, economy is still very much centralised and so on. Do you think that the latest difficulties highlight some sort of failure of the Chinese model of economic development?

Jiang Yi-huah: I think it is just still too early to make the final judgement about whether or not the Chinese model of economic development is a success of a failure. But I am quite sure that if you want to have a genuine market democracy, you can’t do it without having democratic society with the rule of law and also with transparency and accountability. You know because, in a country, if its government is not transparent, if the bureaucracy is very, very corrupt, and if there is no respect for the will of the people and of the rule of law, I don’t think that kind of economy can go a long way. And if some day that economy in Mainland China were to encounter a crisis or a financial meltdown, it consequences may be far worse than in democratic societies like in the EU. I think that how you can cope with economic problems, it has something to do with the nature of political system.

EUBULLETIN: Talking about economic progress and development in China, we also need to discuss regional security because it is again China that is clearly looking south towards the South China Sea for mineral resources, fisheries and, above all, geopolitical clout.

Jiang Yi-huah: I think that the South China Sea controversy is a great concern not only for the countries around the rim but also countries as far away as the EU countries. You know, it is a controversy not only because it is geopolitically unstable but what we are nowadays most concerned about is how to find a peaceful channel or peaceful mechanism to get every party to sit down and negotiate, rather than to deploy more military power in the region because this is only making the whole situation worse and worse.

But we can see right now that Mainland Chinese government is increasing not only its military force but also it tries to expand the space of the tiny islands they occupy. I think this is kind of changing the attitude of the United States’ government to this issue. On the contrary, since the Taiwanese government tries to initiate a peaceful initiative that would allow us to sit down and talk to the Japanese about the East China Sea controversy, I think that we can also deal with the similar question in the South China Sea. The principle is that let’s put aside the controversy about sovereignty for the moment because every country insists on their sovereignty of their islands, which means that they will not compromise at all. But let’s try to cooperate to pick the best interest of this region and not only in terms of the protection of natural environment but also in terms of a sustainable exploitation of the resources on the islands and in the nearby sea.

EUBULLETIN: The US is the main extraterritorial power here, but the EU should perhaps finally admit that it also has a stake in this region. Do you think that the EU has a role to play – as a security actor – in this region? Should the EU try to prod China into behaving according to international norms in this region?

Jiang Yi-huah: I think there are two connections by which the European countries can be related to this security issue. One is, of course, about the International Court in The Hague because some of the disputes, such as the one between Mainland China and Vietnam and the Philippines, have been brought to the International Court and I think that for that part, it should be decided in that court. The second point is that the EU can cooperate with the US and some other countries in this region to try to calm down the situation and ask every party to deal with this issue peacefully, without resorting to the use of force. It is clear that nobody wants a military confrontation or an unexpected escalation of war in this area and sometimes a war can break out simply because of miscalculation and misjudgement, so we should try our best to avoid that kind of unhappy result.

Article Categories:
Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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