Australia: Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that?

The drama over Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan travel plans, briefly explained

  The drama over Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan travel plans, briefly explained US policy toward Taiwan is all about “strategic ambiguity.” That means every trip and remark has to be just right.For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, potential travel plans have already caused a domestic political debate and a minor foreign policy fracas.

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has made headlines the world over, prompted Chinese sabre-rattling and live drill military exercises, and raised tensions in Asia and beyond. But the reality is that senior officials from many Western countries regularly visit Taipei — except, it seems, Australia.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives for a meeting with Taiwanese legislators in Taipei (Image: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo) © Provided by Crikey US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives for a meeting with Taiwanese legislators in Taipei (Image: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo)

There is a well-worn playbook of official yet unofficial relations between Taiwan and Australia — as well as other nations — that play out to satisfy Beijing. Australia’s substantial representative office in Taiwan does not have diplomatic status. But it remains an important foreign affairs post and its head reports to Australia’s ambassador in Beijing. Taiwan’s representative office in Australia is the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Office”.

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Despite a growing trade and investment relationship, politicians from Canberra have fallen out of the habit of visiting the nation. Taiwan may well be Australia’s 12th-largest trading partner and ninth-biggest export destination, but ministers from the Morrison government were absent from the island for almost a decade — although ​​Australian MPs from all sides of politics have travelled to Taiwan.

  Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that? © Provided by Crikey

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Before that, the former Labor government sent ministers Craig Emerson and Martin Ferguson, and in previous decades there were regular visits by federal and state parliamentarians and ministers. It’s not clear whether the Albanese government will resume visits or why the Coalition was so reluctant.

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Former diplomats have pointed out that Taiwan has become relatively less significant as a resources market for Australia in recent decades as China has outstripped all other markets. “It has really just been a bit forgotten, and maybe too hard,” one said. Beijing has continued to ratchet up pressure, both on Department of Foreign Affairs officials and politicians over the past two decades.

As relations with China began souring significantly from 2017, decisions were likely made not to throw unnecessary fuel onto the fire (although the anti-China rhetoric from the previous government continued to escalate).

”Australia’s one-China policy and support for the status quo across the Taiwan Strait is unchanged. It is in the interests of all parties to see a region at peace, not in conflict,” DFAT said in response to detailed questions about official visits.

Australia’s attitude to boots on the ground contrasts with other nations. Significantly, a delegation from the Japanese Diet led by former Japanese defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited Taiwan for a four-day visit to affirm ties between the two countries only last week.

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Upgrading Taiwan’s relationship with its former colonial masters (from 1895-1945) is seen as a key legacy of recently murdered former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

  Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that? © Provided by Crikey

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He sought to “reorient Japanese policy toward the island” by publicly emphasising shared values between Japan and Taiwan. In 2015 he started referring to Taiwan as an “important partner” and “precious friend”, a formulation that the government subsequently adopted. With its westernmost island only 100km from Taiwan, Tokyo has increasingly viewed the island as key to its security.

In June, a French parliamentary delegation visited Taiwan and met President Tsai Ing-wen. Senator Joël Guerriau, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Armed Forces, told Tsai he would “help Taiwan oppose its oppressors and promote Taiwan’s freedom”.

Members of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee are planning to visit Taiwan later this year.

Visits by senior US politicians are also hardly anything new. Since the visit by former Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997 — also steeped in controversy — they have been regular. In April a group of six, including chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez, made a surprise trip to Taipei to show support to the island in the face of Chinese pressure. Equally, Taiwan politicians regularly visit friendly countries. In July Taiwan’s Legislative Speaker You Si-kun took a delegation to meet counterparts in France.

Pelosi doesn't mention Taiwan in South Korea, as China launches retaliatory missile strikes

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Once Tsai, from the more independently minded Democratic Progressive Party was elected in 2016, Beijing once more soured on Taiwan.

In 2018, Australia finally abandoned a plan to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan, one of the most concrete ways that other nations can support a country that is, due to China’s influence, excluded from most high-level multinational forums such as the United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization, etc. And despite the rising rhetoric against mainland China by the Morrison government, it remained just that with FTA plans left on the shelf.

  Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that? © Provided by Crikey

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While Australia recognises the one-China policy, it’s important to note the difference between Beijing’s version and the one that Canberra and many Western capitals recognise.

The view of the Chinese Communist Party that rules the mainland and — since 1997 Hong Kong and 1999 Macau — is that there is only one China and the Taiwan part of it is a renegade province that will, one day, be brought back in under Beijing’s direct rule. This is known as the One-China Principle.

From Canberra’s point of view, it does not recognise Taiwan as a sovereign nation but does not concede that Beijing has de facto control.

Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that?

  Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that? Another man was flown to hospital with critical injuries while police continue to search for the shooter

Still, Australian politicians have pursued our interest in Taiwan after leaving politics. In 2013 former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer visited Taiwan and met with Ma. More recently former prime minister Tony Abbott visited Taiwan last year to speak at the Yushan Forum.

At present the message from Canberra is all about stability in the region, so we are unlikely to see the Albanese government testing Beijing with any step up in official or unofficial contact. But it is also important not to cede any ground on Taiwan with which Australia shares both values and interests in the region.

There are between 45,000 and 55,000 first- and second-generation Taiwanese living in Australia, and before COVID there were almost 20,000 Taiwanese students at Australian tertiary institutions. People- to-people ties, both family and in business, remain strong. Australia is a major holiday destination for Taiwanese and there is fast-growing two-way investment that stands at about $15 billion each way.

Balancing unofficial ties with Taiwan with Beijing’s increasingly strident attitude to Taipei looks to be one of the many foreign policy challenges facing the Albanese government — especially if the Xi Jinping regime moves towards any trade blockades in the island.

Should Australia thumb its nose at China and actively support Taiwan? Let us know by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

The post Australian ministers have avoided doing a Pelosi for almost a decade. Why is that? appeared first on Crikey.

Even the People of Taiwan Say Pelosi Is Just ‘Causing Trouble’ and Should Have ‘Sacrificed’ Over-Hyped Trip .
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her entourage including five other members of Congress arrived in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei in a blaze of lights and state-making Tuesday night after a five-hour flight from Malaysia and promptly went to their hotel for a little rest. If her arrival seemed like a triumph of defiance against threats from the mainland capital of Beijing, there was far from universal applause among the locals despite her claim that the visit was “part of our unwavering commitment” to Taiwan.Nor was everyone convinced the visit shows “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people onTaiwan more closely than ever,” as she said in her arrival statement.

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