A tough call on Taiwan

THE president of the Australia China Business Council has warned the presence of Australian politicians at the inauguration of Taiwan’s re-elected president next month could pose problems for Western Australian businesses.

“There are Australian politicians who don’t understand how to deal with China and don’t understand the Chinese people and don’t understand the value they put on their island of Taiwan,” Dr Desmond Williams said.

“It [Taiwan] is an important marketplace to WA business. The Taiwanese are quite happy to do business with us – they do not want us to make political statements.”

It is understood that up to 10 Australian politicians are considering attending the inauguration despite Australia’s lack of official relations with the Taiwanese administration.

The news also comes at a particularly sensitive time for the Federal Government, which is advancing a proposed free trade agreement with China as well as discussing entry into the Association of South East Asian Nations.

At last week’s WA Business News Meet the Ambassadors breakfast, China’s Ambassador to Australia, Ms Fu Ying, called on Australian parliamentarians – in the name of building stronger political and economic cooperation between the two countries – not to visit Taiwan “at the wrong time”.

The issue of Taiwanese independence has angered China for many years and last month’s elections have fuelled the dispute, President Shuibian expressing a desire to hold a referendum on developing a new constitution.

China fears that a strong foreign representation at the inauguration will be used by Taiwan to garner further support for independence.

“Taiwan has very close economic ties with the mainland and we believe that time will solve the problem, but we are very sensitive about provocative actions by the Taiwanese,” Ms Fu Ying said.

The ambassador said a large contingent of Australians at the inauguration would be making an “unnecessary political gesture”.

“So we hope there will be an appreciation and a respect of these concerns.”

Officially, Australia supports China’s ‘One China’ policy however, unofficially, it maintains business, trade and other links with Taiwan. Ms Fu Ying will hold talks with the politicians understood to be planning to attend the inauguration, urging them not to go.

Dr Williams said the Chinese Government’s feelings should be respected.

“They’re not stopping people from doing business or visiting Taiwan,” he said.

Adding to the importance of the issue is the recent positive indications of a growing acceptance of Australia in Asia.

The free trade agreement between Australia and China is progressing ahead of schedule while Asean just last week invited both Australia and New Zealand to attend a round of talks later this year.

However, Ms Fu Ying said China needed more of a political understanding from Australia over issues such as Taiwan.




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