Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: conference
Tuesday, 18 February 2014 17:40

Pacific History Association Conference

The 21st biennial conference of the Pacific History Association (PHA) will take place in Taipei and Taitung, on December 3-6, 2014. We will convene at Taipei for the first part of the conference, and then travel to Taitung to be more engaged with indigenous communities for the second part of the conference. Tours to Austronesian villages, archaeological sites and the Prehistoric Museum will be arranged.

For more info and registration, go to:


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Monday, 21 February 2011 15:17

From Atolan to New Guinea

Futuru Tsai is a native of Hsinchu in Taiwan. He first went to the Atolan Community (Dulan) when he was 23, where he became the honourary son of Kapah, a local Amis person. He was given the Amis name Futuru and also joined the Atolan Community’s Sakakaay No Kapah (Age Group).

Friday, 08 March 2013 13:19

A visitor's glimpse into life in Taiwan

Maddy King, a Pacific Studies student from ANU learning Chinese in Taipei gives her opinion on a variety of topics related to her stay, such as what she has learned from it, how experiencing Taiwan has shaped her view of the Pacific, and what she misses most about home.

Thursday, 08 April 2010 13:58

The Jesuits’ Encounter with Chinese Scholars: A Meeting of East and West

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Fr. Matteo Ricci. To commemorate his contribution to East-West cultural exchange and reinforce its commitment to its public service ideals, the National Central Library of Taiwan along with the Taipei Ricci Institute invite you to attend the conference of Professor Nicolas Standaert, S.J. (Leuven University): "Sino-European Displacements: The Circulation of Prints between Europe and China". The conference will be held on April 16th in Taipei, at the briefing room of the National Central Library. Professor Standaert is one of the world’s foremost experts on cultural exchanges between Europe and China during the Late Ming and Early Qing dynasties, and will give a richly illustrated conference – do not miss it!

Also, by attending this conference you will have the opportunity to be among the first to visit the exhibit around Matteo Ricci held at the aforesaid Library: The Jesuits’ Encounter with Chinese Scholars: A Meeting of East and West -- An Exhibition Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Matteo Ricci. The Institute has been associating with Taiwan National Central Library and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for organizing this exhibit which includes images of pieces held in the treasured collections of the Vatican Library, the headquarters of the Society of Jesus in Rome, the Archives of the Society of Jesus, and the Pontificia Università Gregoriana. The exhibit takes place in a new research room into which the library of the Institute has now been transferred. This research room is also dedicated to the new research focus of the Institute: the development of Pacific studies in Taiwan. (More information here).

Also, on April 20 at 2.30pm, Gjon Kolndrekaj, the director of the documentary film “Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit in the Realm of the Dragon,” and Prof. Antonella Tulli of the Department of Italian Language and Literature at Fu Jen Catholic University have been invited to hold a symposium on the film.

We hope that you will join us for one or all these events, register here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

Mei-fang Tsai,
General Manager of Taipei Ricci Institute


Sino-European Displacements: The Circulation of Prints between Europe and China
by Nicolas Standaert (moderator: Pr. Ping-yi Chu, Academia Sinica)
Time: Friday, April 16, 2010, 16:00-17:30
Place: National Central Library, Taipei city, Zhongshan South Road, N.20 1F, Briefing Room
MRT: CKS Memorial Hall
The Jesuits’ Encounter with Chinese Scholars: A Meeting of East and West -- An Exhibition Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Matteo Ricci
The exhibit will be opened half an hour before the starting of the conference.
The exhibit formally starts on Saturday 17 and will run till May 16, 2010,
9:00 -17:00 (Closed on Mondays)
Place: NCL, 6th Floor, Matteo Ricci Pacific Studies Research Room
A Meeting with Gjon Kolndrekaj, Film Director: Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit in the Realm of the Dragon
Time: Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 14:30-16:30
Place: National Central Library, 1st Floor, Briefing Room
Missionary to the Forbidden City: An exhibition in Macao celebrates the remarkable life of the Jesuit priest and Renaissance scholar Matteo Ricci, the first missionary welcomed into Beijing.

Friday, 25 March 2011 16:48

The Other “Ties That Bind”: Christianity in East Asia and the Pacific

In this and similar conferences, we are in the process of being reintroduced to one another–like a gathering of a long-lost family. Not just Taiwanese, especially the aboriginal population, and the Island peoples–who are joined by ancient linguistic and cultural ties; but Westerners, Europeans and Americans as well.

Friday, 01 November 2013 11:18

Yi Studies on the Move

In 1995, a group of scholars, from the Yi and Han nationalities as well as from a few countries outside China, gathered at University of Washington in Seattle, at the initiative of Professor Stevan Harrell.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:45

Summary of Session III: Images as Waves- Watching, Thinking and Acting

Summary of Session III: Images as Waves- Watching, Thinking and Acting

Session III: Images as Waves - Watching, Thinking and Acting, provided a visual aspect to the conference by focusing on the works of three local documentary filmmakers and their use of visual media to explore various indigenous issues. The three documentary makers provided an introduction to their work as well as showing small excerpts from their documentaries.

The first documentary maker was Lungnan Isak Fangas, an experienced documentary director from the Amis tribe. His documentaries focus on his interest in indigenous identity and belonging. He introduced three of his documentaries; the first of these was filmed in 1999, and is footage of an indigenous speaking competition at his university. It documented enthusiastic young students with either indigenous roots or just with an interest in learning the traditional tongues of Taiwan. Although the film is not very polished, it makes for a good and engaging introduction to the subject. Fangas' second documentary saw him following the journey of an indigenous Taiwanese band called 'Totem' performing in a bar in a city. The footage shows the band arriving in the city by night, then performing in a crowded room to a receptive crowd. Fangas reflects that the song being sung is called 'I was singing over there', and due to its meaning concerning coming home, every human being, indigenous or not, can relate to this feeling. The footage again is simply edited but this works well with the topic, the grassroots journey of the band. Lastly, Fangas ends with footage from his most recent exploration of indigeneity which sees the camera turn on himself and his own journey of identity. The content of this footage, along with that from the previous two documentaries, was simple and easy to follow. It light-heartedly documented his pursuit to become a member of the Amis tribe, showing his amateur attempts to learn the specific cultural practices and dances of the tribe. His desire to connect with the Amis culture despite having apparent but untraceable indigenous Taiwanese roots, stems from what he calls "feeling like a tourist, in terms of identity". Overall, Fangas' documentaries, despite doing nothing more than casually observing an event each time, sensitively present his desire to explore notions of indigenous identity in an easy to understand manner.

The second documentary maker introduced was Si Yabosokanen. She comes from Orchid Island, a small island off the East coast of Taiwan that's traditional culture and way of life has been better preserved than in other areas due to its isolation, yet still strongly and uniquely affected by an influx of contemporary society and culture nonetheless. It is this combination of traditional methods and more contemporary methods that has inspired the focus and issues that Yabosokanen aims to introduce and help tackle through her documentaries. Yabosokanen adds her skills as a nurse to her filmmaking ability in order to address the serious lack of care of elderly people on Orchid Island. Yabosokanen explained in detail the cultural factors for the origin of this problem, including a cultural stigma of sickness, younger generations' having to leave the island to find work and thus being less able to care for their elders, and traditional housing being replaced by a more modern style which affects the place for the elderly within their physical home structure. Her documentary showed nurses addressing the dire needs of some elderly residents who are extremely emaciated and unclean. Seeing these images is striking as it is hard to imagine how these elderly people could be left to survive in this state. Yabosokanen's topic is shocking as much as it is very interesting, as cultural and social undercurrents are at play, affecting the general wellbeing of people. It is no wonder that, when shown in Taipei, her documentary created an emotive response, with members of the public giving donations of money and their time to help her cause. Overall Yabosokanen's documentary endeavors and her story are inspiring, and truly embody the power of the documentary to introduce and help address complex issues such as this on Orchard Island.

The last documentary maker introduced was Cerise Phiv, the managing editor of eRenlai. Ending with her documentary was fitting since her focus was broader and more encompassing, concerning the place of indigenous Taiwanese within the Pacific region. Phiv explained the causes and events for her arrival at this topic of exploration, then provided footage from her documentary: Writings that Weave Waves, which was shown in full later in the conference.
Firstly, through her time at the Ricci institute, with which eRenlai is associated, and by participating in one of their documentaries following a young Amis woman, Phiv was introduced to issues of indigenous Taiwanese culture and the craft of documentary making. Secondly, also through the Ricci institute, Phiv attended a trip to Canada with fourteen young indigenous Taiwanese, filming their trip and interactions with indigenous Canadian culture. Thus,
Writings that Weave Waves, was a culmination of the notion of indigenous identity in its own cultural context, and also within a regional Pacific context. These two contexts considered together are interesting, as they are concerned with the scope of perspective and belonging. Phiv explained that despite being Taiwanese and therefore living on an island surrounded by ocean, certain tribes do not associate themselves with it. Therefore, although in a broad sense, there is the perspective that Taiwan is part of the Pacific, from a more refined perspective, an affinity to ones local tribal environment becomes evident. Alongside this thought, the footage from the documentary itself left the viewer with a desire to see more, as the editing and the ambition to attempt to place Taiwan within the greater Pacific diaspora were both well presented and clearly evident. To conclude her presentation, Phiv herself aptly stated that the images should be best left to talk for themselves.

This section of the conference affirmed the idea that images truly have a unique ability to convey messages and explore complex issues. These three documentary makers have all taken different approaches and styles to their documentary making, yet all achieve their overall goal: to explore issues and enlighten viewers. Without this section, the conference would have lacked a greater sense of perspective of the issue. Furthermore, seeing footage from the documentaries prevented conceptual ideas and notions from stealing away the conference's purpose, as seeing real people, places and issues at hand helped keep the conference grounded and down to earth.


Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:30

The Immanence of Culture: An Interview with Prof. Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen

In this interview, Cook Islands cultural specialist/drummer prof. Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen shares with us a variety of topics on the different Pacific Asia cultures in terms of indigenous music and language. He starts from a very special story about his own name, signaling us to the hidden force of traditional culture in our modern era, and ends the interview with solemn advice to the indigenous people on how to gain autonomy in a globalizing world...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:29

Historical Resonances: War, Colonial Experiences and Peace-Making

The following video is a recording of the Q&A from the second session of the International Austronesian Conference 2012 - Historical Resonances - War, Colonial Experiences and Peace-Making.

Wednesday, 09 January 2013 13:26

Teaching a Common Pacific History: Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano

Professor Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano discusses how the teaching of history in Fiji has been decolonized, and how Taiwan and other Pacific nations can work together to create an alternative version of history which incorporates indigenous memory and stands apart from the colonial view of history.

Monday, 18 April 2011 17:20

Looking South: Taiwan’s Diplomacy and Rivalry with China in the Pacific Islands Region

Taiwan has diplomatic relations with six Pacific Island Countries (PICs) - KiribatiMarshall IslandsNauruPalauSolomon Islands and Tuvalu.[1] This means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) still faces a challenge in the South Pacific that no longer exists in the other sub-regions of Asia-Pacific. In Asia, the ‘one China’ policy is a rule with no exceptions. No Asian state would today even contemplate the idea of switching allegiance from Beijing to Taipei. The Middle Kingdom has been seeking the same level of compliance in the Pacific Islands Region. Consequently, China’s involvement in the South Pacific is primarily due to the capacity of the island states to accord diplomatic recognition, and only to a lesser - but not negligible - extent to the region’s economic and strategic characteristics.[2] As the economies of the two Asian contenders have grown, their rivalry has escalated as the resources available to both have increased, bolstering the South Pacific ‘diplomatic market’. This market has been sustained also by the small PICs, that look at the Cross-Strait rivalry as an opportunity to extract development assistance and supplement their limited resources. Today, China has more avenues of influence and greater economic resources than Taiwan can match and the imbalance is likely to keep increasing. Such a development will factor highly in the diplomatic recognition equation since China will be able to appeal to the PICs’ development aspirations with more than just international aid.[3] Yet, Taiwan has been able to win the diplomatic recognition of some island states which are “sufficiently indifferent to China’s power.”[4] Moreover, the fewer allies Taiwan has, the more aid money it can allocate for each, and the more difficult is for China to outbid its Cross-Strait rival. Over the last decade, the intensification of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic competition in the South Pacific has progressively antagonised Australian interests and those of the two Chinese rivals, and introduced an additional element of complication in Canberra’s relations with the island states. Recently, the tension has been lowered by a positive development in the Cross-Strait dynamic. In fact, today the two dragons seem to be at a pivotal but still ephemeral turning point, having apparently agreed a ‘diplomatic truce’ which looks stable but also easily reversible.

This paper analyses the Cross-Strait rivalry in the Pacific Islands Region at this crucial juncture. It draws on a vast array of scholarly publications, news reports, and official documentation. The paper contends that, even though the two Asian rivals do not generally acknowledge it, their competition has been conducted mainly through ‘chequebook diplomacy’ - diplomatic recognition in return for not-very transparent development assistance. The paper looks at the type of aid that the two sides of Taiwan Strait are providing to their Pacific allies, and how diplomatic allegiance is maintained and gained. The article argues that the PICs are not the passive objects of the Sino-Taiwanese confrontation, but rather are active co-creators of the rivalry. While this involvement has, under many respects, a negative impact on the PICs’ society, political process and international perception, it would be simplistic to maintain that the island states have not benefited from the aid provided by the two Asian powers, which represents a few-strings attached alternative to the more substantial but highly conditional Western development assistance. The paper initially begins with briefly outlining the historical unfolding of China-Taiwan rivalry in the South Pacific. It then examines what the two opponents are spending and how their diplomatic relationships with the Pacific Islandsare maintained and, occasionally, laboriously won. Next, the paper investigates the islands states’ practice of auctioning their diplomatic recognition and the role played by the PICs as Cross-Strait rivalry co-creators. The paper then analyses the challenges posed by the Sino-Formosan rivalry to the longstanding dominant power in the region,Australia, and identifies the opportunities that the Cross-Strait detente presents to Canberra and the two Asian contenders. Finally, the paper briefly re-examines the contentious issue of the damages and benefits to the PICs from the rivalry, and the prospects for the ‘diplomatic truce’.

A battle of enticements: China-Taiwan diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific

Pacific Islands’ transition to independence from the late 1960s to early 1980s delivered new opportunities for the diplomatic Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry.[5] The transfer of the permanent seat and the right of veto in the United Nations Security Council from the Republic of China (ROC), controlling Taiwan and some island groups nearby, to Beijing played a crucial role in this competition. For example, Australian governmental records reveal that Beijing’s influence in the UN was decisive in establishing exclusive diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea (PNG).[6] However, Taiwan’s rise to ‘Asian tiger’ status through the 1970s and 1980s assisted Taipei in winning the allegiance of several PICs, partially counterbalancing China’s bigger international footprint.[7] For instance, Taiwan was reportedly able to establish diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands thanks to Taipei’s economic incentives.[8] By 1988, Taiwan had the recognition of four PICs - TongaSolomon IslandsNauru and Tuvalu - and the PRC the recognition of five - PNG, SamoaFijiKiribati and Vanuatu. The basis of the Sino-Taiwanese contention in the South Pacific underwent a change with Taiwan’s transition to democracy. Starting with Lee Teng-hui’s presidential tenure, Taipei increasingly commenced to act more as the government of Taiwan (although formally continuing to claim sovereignty over the over the territory of the PRC and Mongolia), and abandoned the condition that Taipei would only recognize a state if it sever relations with China.[9]“This ‘New Taiwan’ continued to seek diplomatic recognition from the Pacific Islands, but as a state separate from that controlled by the government in Beijing. It would also become interested in acquiring increments of recognition, such as permission for presidential flight stopovers.” [10] However, given that the PRC continues to be intransigent on its ‘One-China’ policy and denying Taiwan’s statehood, the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry has maintained many of its pre-1988 connotations despite the ROC’s ‘Taiwanisation’ and ‘Taiwanised’ diplomacy. Over the last two decades, China’s potent economic growth has sharpened the diplomatic confrontation with the other side of the Taiwan Strait, and enabled Beijing to virtually outbid Taiwan on a global scale, including the South Pacific.[11] For example, China’s economic leverage persuaded the Kingdom of Tonga to change its allegiance in 1998 after 26 years of close relations with Taiwan. Moreover, China is reportedly fielding more diplomats in the South Pacific than any other country (although Australia has more diplomatic missions).”[12] However, it would be incorrect to assume that Beijing now has the capacity to outbid Taipei in any case. In fact, the fewer allies Taiwan has the more funds it can allocate on each, and the higher are the expectations and demands of the PRC’s allies. For this reason, China is unlikely to ever be able to ‘buy out’ all of its opponent’s allies. As such, it is not surprising that today the ROC has almost as many ‘friends’ in the South Pacific as it did in the 1980s. Taiwan currently entertains official relations with six of the fourteen island members of the Pacific Islands Forum (FICs) - Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The PRC has the recognition of eight: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Even though the PRC and - to a minor extent - Taiwan, give the PICs international aid for other purposes, the main part of the development assistance they provide is related to their diplomatic rivalry. Lancaster calculates that Beijing’s overall annual foreign aid budget amounts to $1.5-2 billion.[13] Hanson maintains that China donated $100-150 million to its South Pacific partners in 2007, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized loans. [14] According to the OECD, Taiwan’s total aid budget amount to $514 million in 2007. [15] In a recent ‘white paper’, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) stated that Taiwan’s ‘official’ overseas development assistance totalled $430 million for 2008, 0.11 per cent of gross national income.[16] Taiwan generally allocates $10–15 million for each ally, which translates to a total $60-90 million annual budget for the South Pacific. Taiwan also provides funds to PICs - such as Fiji - that do not bestow official recognition on it (see below).

While the amount the two dragons are spending in the Pacific Islands Region has continued to escalate, the level of spending remains below what the major Western donors give, as was the case two decades ago.[17] However, the two Asian contenders are important donors for some PICs. For instance, Taipei is the second largest donor to Tuvalu after the European Union, and Beijing is PNG’s second largest donor after Canberra.[18] Moreover, “South Pacific governments often perceive aid from China and Taiwan as more valuable than Western aid as it comes in a form over which they have more control.”[19]

Despite the substantial aid that the two Asian contenders liberally bestow on the South Pacific, winning new allies has proved considerably more difficult than keeping the allegiance of the allies they already have. During Chen Shui-bian’s presidential tenures, Taipei and Beijing repeatedly tried to woo each other’s allies, usually to no avail. Only five out of the fourteen Pacific Island states - Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa and Tonga - have changed sides from one dragon to the other over the past three decades. As Atkinson notices, “the main reason for this is the difficulty China and Taiwan face in garnering sufficiently broad political support while maintaining the secrecy necessary to avoid interference from the rival side. In PNG in 1999, Tuvalu in 2004, and Vanuatu in 2006, China or Taiwan were successful in attaining the support of a Pacific Islands country’s leader only to see him ousted in a vote of no confidence due to the broader support of the opposing rival.”[20] However, maintaining the recognition of a ‘PIC friend’ is not an easy task as well. In fact, in order to secure an enduring diplomatic relationship, the two contenders must ‘keep happy’ a relatively large majority of a South Pacific polity. This implies that, unlike the aid from Western countries, the gifts from the dragons (the Taiwanese or Chinese aid packages) are often designed to meet the requirements of the islands’ political elites.

The government buildings and the sport facilities provided by Beijing or Taipei are the most visible sign of the aforementioned policy. For the PRC, this list includes the foreign ministry headquarters in Port Moresby, the Melanesian Spearhead Group headquarters, parliament and foreign ministry buildings for Vanuatu, government buildings for Samoa, and mansions for the president and vice president in Micronesia. Taiwan funded the central government office complex in Tuvalu (notably, the tallest building in the minuscule country). “Although there is no official data available, Taiwan has probably donated around $100 million to Palau since establishing diplomatic ties in 1999, which works out to approximately $5,000 per capita. Of this sum, $3 million dollars has been spent on construction of a conference center, $15 million on airport expansion, and $2 million on the National Museum […]. Taiwan also lent $20 million for the construction of a new capital city, Melekeok, locally referred to as ‘Washington Jr.’ for its architectural resemblance to Capitol Hill.”[21]The buildings erected thanks to Taiwan’s generosity are generally regarded as more valuable to the recipient country as Taipei provides the funds with which to buy both the materials and (local) labour. Beijing typically provides - that is, imports - its own workforce and materials, significantly lowering the benefit to the local economy. As Fergus Hanson puts it, “in the Pacific (and elsewhere) it [China] attaches significant strings to its aid (although publicly it professes to give without any conditions). Use of Chinese contractors, materials and laborers, for example, is generally mandatory, limiting opportunities for local workers and benefits to the local economy.”[22] In addition, it appears that in several cases, the infrastructures built by the Chinese are badly constructed and fail to take local conditions into account. As Graeme Dobell ironically remarks, “Beijing is keen on showpieces that can be locked and left. Large public buildings and sports stadiums are examples of ‘key’ aid: the donor builds the project, hands over the key and leaves after the opening ceremony, with no responsibility for future maintenance or operation of the facility.”[23]

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait hand down other material benefits to the island states’ politicians. For example, the PRC donated a fleet of luxury cars for the use of Vanuatu’s cabinet ministers - notably, almost half of Port Vila’s parliament. Beijing also is a donor to each of Vanuatu’s numerous political parties and involves members of parliament in business deals.[24] Taipei covers Tuvalu’s ministerial travel expenses, and accords funding for Solomon Islands legislators to spend on development projects in their constituencies. Both the PRC and its rival continue the consolidated practice of bringing PIC leaders and other politicians - together with their numerous retinues - on all-expenses-paid visits, with complimentary spending money and gifts included.

The majority of Beijing’s and Taipei’s aid for their South Pacific allies is in the form of

-          direct budgetary grants
-          soft loans
-          and funding for specific projects.

Direct grants are the most attractive type of aid for the PICs’ governments, as they allow the island states to spend the funds as they deem useful. Loans are similarly flexible, and are sometimes forgiven or repeatedly extended. “Moreover, repayments are often made out of government budgets supported by direct grants, and thus not a direct burden on the finances of the country concerned.”[25] The islands’ governments are also given a high degree of control even where funding is labelled as developmental assistance, with the right to both commence and supervise projects. For example, China - which has spectacularly stepped up its aid-giving to the South Pacific (from pledges worth $33 million in 2005 to $206 million in 2008)[26] - funnels the main part of its funding to the Fiji Islands through Suva’s foreign ministry, thus tendering the ministry a direct financial interest in the relationship with the PRC. Taiwan donates a much smaller aid fund (annually, $500,000 circa) through Fiji’s Prime Minister’s office. Taiwan also provides separate funding for education, health, agriculture and fisheries projects directly to the relevant ministries. According to an interview conducted by Australian scholar Joel Atkinson, “this separate system for handling aid from Taiwan came about because of the PRC’s objection to Taiwan’s donations being received directly into the coffers of the state.” [27] As previously mentioned, the two Asian donors also exercise considerably less supervision over their respective aid programmes than Western aid givers. For instance, the Tuvaluan government can “use the money [from Taiwan] where it likes […] no strings attached”[28] on condition it presents a progress report on the destination of the first instalment. This modus operandi can be a source of problems for the ‘dragon donors’ when the policies of the islands’ governments undermine the basis of support in the country as a whole. For example, Taipei’s ambassador had no choice but sending money directly when the Tuvaluan government diverted funds which were earmarked for projects on the external islands to fill in for government revenue shortages.[29]

(Photo courtesy of the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory)


It is also worth highlighting that - in the hope that this will be conducive to the establishment of relations - both Cross-Strait rivals indulge in the longstanding practice of approaching parliamentary oppositions or presidential candidates. For example, Beijing inked a memorandum of understanding with Solomon Islands legislator Francis Billy Hilly and his National Party providing funding in return for working towards severing relations with Taiwan and recognizing China. Hilly was brought into the Solomon Islands government in 2006, and then expelled even for not reneging on the memorandum.[30] The Middle Kingdom has also established links with opposition politicians in Palau, and invited Palauan legislators to Beijing.[31] To date, neither of these initiatives has been successful for China. However, Taiwan employed this tactic successfully following in the aftermaths of July 2003 presidential elections in Kiribati (see below).

Each Asian rival advertises and stresses out the benefits of having relations with its side of the Taiwan Strait in order to maintain their Pacific allies and win new ones. As mentioned above, Beijing employs its own labour and materials to erect buildings as aid for its PIC partners. China also utilizes its manufacturing resources to provide ‘its’ island states with a multitude of goods ranging from chemical fertilizer[32] to cars.[33] The Middle Kingdom is also an attractive export market for the Pacific Islands and offers its South Pacific allies preferential access. China even invests in PNG’s mining industry,[34] obtaining coveted raw materials and corroborating its partnership with Port Moresby at the same time. The growth of the Chinese economy has enabled an increasing number of mainland Chinese to travel overseas for leisure, and Beijing has granted ‘Approved Destination Status’ (authorizing tourism from China) to its South Pacific allies.

While, for obvious reasons, it is difficult for Taiwan to compete with the mainland as an export market for the island states, Taipei has, however, a remarkable capacity to supply investment capital. Notably, investment was a weighty factor in the establishment of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Palau,[35] and Taipei is significantly investing in the Solomon Islands.[36] Taiwan has an excellent expertise in agriculture, and continues to carry out agricultural development projects in the South Pacific.[37] In addition, Taiwan is a high-technology powerhouse, and provides the PICs with technology for environmental schemes and initiatives aimed at preventing and alleviating the consequences of the rising sea level.[38] Taiwan’s advanced health system also plays an important role: Taipei regularly dispatches medical équipes and equipment to the Pacific Islands.[39] “During Chen Shui-bian’s presidency, Taipei attempted to fill a gap left by Australia and bring its Pacific Islands allies into Taiwan’s system of temporary foreign labour.”[40] Taiwan often presents itself as a humanitarian power to its allies. For example, In February 2009, ROC Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen hinted that Taiwan could become a safe haven for the whole population of Tuvalu (10,472) in the tragic case the tiny archipelago disappears into the ocean.[41]

China and Taiwan also resort to soft power and ideological appeal. The PRC emphasizes its status as the ‘rising star’ in the constellation of great powers to the Pacific Islands, “and attempts to create a sense of the benefits of China’s friendship and the ‘inevitability’ of diplomatically recognizing China and not Taiwan.”[42] Taiwan, on its part, highlights its democracy and respect for human rights. In some cases, the Taipei’s ‘democracy argument’ seems to have a certain persuasive power. When asked about his country’s alliance with Taiwan, Palau’s House Speaker, Noah Idechong, “says […] Palau is right to stick with its current alliances and not be too quick to embrace China.  He points out that Taiwan and Palau have common values, values that China’s government doesn’t share. […] ‘I feel it would be overwhelming if we join China, that is very heavy handed, in my mind, when dealing with human rights issues, environment, and controlling their people.’ […] Idechong admits that business people here are increasingly asking, ‘Why throw in our lot with the small fish when we could go for the big one?’ Idechong thinks the big fish could sink Palau’s boat.”[43] Last but not least, Taiwan puts emphasis and cultivates the ‘Austronesian link’. The Taiwanese, in other words, stress the scientific evidence that Formosan aboriginal population is culturally and genetically linked to the Pacific Islanders. For instance, Taipei dispatched an aboriginal former legislator to be its representative in Fiji,[44] funds the studies conducted by Palau’s National Museum on the ethnic connection between Taiwan’s indigenous people and Micronesians,[45] and organises the annual International Austronesian Conference in Taiwan.[46]

‘Visit diplomacy’ also has an important role in the China-Taiwan diplomatic competition in the South Pacific. For Taipei, official visits the island states’ capitals serve a double purpose: showing respect to PICs and, more importantly, asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty. During Chen Shui-bian’s two mandates, the Taiwanese government decided to supplement its diplomatic efforts in the region through presidential visits to the PICs. In early 2005, Chen became the first ROC president to pay an official visit to Palau and the Solomons and, by September 2006, Chen had called at each of Taiwan’s Pacific allies. The Chen administration even inaugurated a multilateral diplomacy approach to the region, by organising and attending two Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summits in Palau and the Marshall Islands respectively in September 2006 and September 2007.[47]According to Chen Shui-bian, the summit was meant to be “an evolution in Taiwan’s diplomacy from bilateral links to multilateral comprehensive partnerships.”[48] In late March 2010, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou’s made his first Pacific tour of all Taiwan’s six diplomatic allies.[49] Ma’s voyage had been originally scheduled for October 2009, but “it was postponed […] due to pressures of rescue and relief work in the wake of Typhoon Morakot.”[50] This delay also brought a change in the character of the program. The original agenda prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs included the convening of the Third Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit in Honiara. However, the Office of the President decided to replace the summit with traditional bilateral state visits. The Ma administration reportedly “renounced the multilateral approach on the grounds that the ‘diplomatic truce’ between the KMT government and Beijing has ‘stabilized’ Taiwan’s ties with the six Pacific allies and because the bilateral approach is ‘more sincere’ for maintaining official relations and deepening cooperation.”[51] Even though Chinese officials had made over twice as many high level visits to the region as Taiwan between 1988 and 1998, Chinese President Hu Jintao has been unable or unwilling to imitate Chen’s and Ma’s diplomatic activism. However, in April 2006, Beijing’s premier Wen Jiabao flew to Fiji, becoming the first Chinese premier to visit the South Pacific. There, he combined bilateralism and multilateralism through meeting separately and jointly with leaders from all of China’s allies during the first China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum. “China made several significant pledges to its allies at the conference. In addition to the main agreement, each participating country struck bilateral deals with China, supposedly worth over $24 million in the case of Fiji.”[52] In March 2007, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang visited Port Moresby and Port Vila, and paid an official visit to Papua Guinea again in 2009.[53]

The Cross-Strait rivalry is a problem the South Pacific regional organizations have been facing since Beijing became a dialogue partner of the South Pacific Forum (later Pacific Islands Forum) in 1989.[54] In 1992, the forum also accepted Taiwan as a dialogue partner. Despite vocal Chinese protests, the ROC attended the 1993 forum in Nauru, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan. China was gravely disturbed by the prospect of Taiwan’s participation in Australia the following year. Beijing then tried to limit Taiwan’s presence to South Pacific Forum meetings held in countries recognizing Taipei. Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating did not kow-tow, and successfully proposed a compromise solution where the South Pacific Forum post-forum dialogue with Taiwan was hosted at a separate venue.[55] This solution proved resilient, and it has been adopted since then. In 2003, when Canberra and Wellington declined an offer of membership to the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), the organization made the same offer to Taipei and Beijing.[56] China then became the first extra-regional member of the SPTO in April 2004.[57] In return, Beijing agreed to authorize Chinese tourists to vacation in the island states which bestow recognition on the Middle Kingdom, and to fund the SPTO.[58] According to Trevor Olovae, Solomon Islands’ Tourism Minister, “Taiwan [also] promised to financially support the SPTO in a significant way if it becomes a member.”[59] However, China threatened to withdraw in case of Taiwan’s admission in the organization. The decision of the SPTO to exclude Taiwan was then ‘consolidated’ when China raised its contribution to $100,000 for five years. In 2006, the most important regional organization of the South Pacific, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), was forced to steer a course through a particularly insidious Cross-Strait storm.[60] In preparation for the above mentioned ‘China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference’, China originally approached the PIF to co-sponsor the event. However, China’s insistence that only the states recognizing it would sign the conference declaration - and Taiwan’s protests - caused the PIF to withdraw.[61] Following this, the PICs siding with Taiwan announced that they were not to attend the conference. In the end, the PIF’s role was limited to “supporting and helping members to take part.”[62]

In 2008, the election of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, a leader openly committed to start a fresh dialogue with China and make political ouvertures to Beijing in return for economic benefits and diplomatic détente, deeply changed the dynamics of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific. Ma’s government claims it has successfully negotiated a ‘diplomatic truce’ with Beijing and, although China has not publicly acknowledged the truce, “a tacit agreement appears to be in effect.” [63] This informal truce appears to have temporarily anesthetized the rivalry, given that at the moment neither side is actively operating to change the diplomatic balance. This is reflected by some interesting policy shifts on both sides of the straits. “Taiwan released an aid white paper in 2009 that set out a much more responsible approach to aid giving, essentially rejecting the old chequebook diplomacy for which both China and Taiwan got plenty of ‘bad publicity’. For its part, Beijing has taken the unprecedented step of discouraging countries loyal to Taiwan from switching allegiance to China in an effort to keep the improving bilateral relationship on track.”[64] However, the truce does not imply that the contest with Taiwan is no longer central to China’s strategy in the South Pacific and the other regions where Taiwan retains diplomatic allies. Beijing is likely to withdraw its tacit cooperation with the truce if it does not receive what it considers sufficient concessions to its unification policy. “What concessions will satisfy Beijing - and whether this or future Taiwan governments will be prepared to make them - is the subject of intense debate, and the long-term prospects of the diplomatic truce are uncertain.”[65] If the truce breaks down, it is possible that the resulting uncertainty will see the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry return to the Pacific Islands Region with sudden rapidity. There are also questions surrounding what the truce will mean for the region while it endures. It is unlikely that the two rivals will drastically reduce their aid commitments to the PICs. Presumably, neither contender will want to unnecessarily neglect ties with its allies while the termination of the truce remains a concrete possibility. Despite the truce, Beijing has so far continued to promise relatively substantial aid packages to the Pacific. This suggests that “China is assuming something of a holding pattern: Waiting to see whether the truce with Taiwan holds and if it does not, making sure it is ready to jump back into the diplomatic tussle for allies.”[66] Even if the truce were to become durably consolidated, there are reasons to assume that Beijing would maintain its aid commitment to the region, albeit it may decide to donate less liberally. China’s view and perception of its place in the world arena, and its capacity to act accordingly, have changed: while the South Pacific might be geopolitically marginal, as a state with global vision and ambitions, the PRC needs to be a protagonist in every regional theater. Actually, both contenders have a set of interests in the Pacific Islands that are separate from their rivalry. For this reason, Beijing and Taipei may prove reluctant to relinquish the versatile influence they have cultivated with the Pacific Islands. For example, In China’s case, the links with the island states provide Beijing with a measure of international support on a range of issues such as its control over Tibet and Japan’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.[67] For Taiwan, its involvement in the region is also a means to advertise itself as a humanitarian power. It is also true that in the South Pacific, there are substantial resources of interest to both China and Taiwan (for instance, many island states have large fishing zones). In the light of these factors, it is foreseeable that the two dragons will continue to be important actors in the Southern Seas well into the next decade, regardless of the resilience of the diplomatic truce.

The Pacific Island Countries: Rivalry Impacted or Rivalry Co-creators?

“That sovereignty has economic consequences can scarcely be debated.”[68] States have taken it away from other states in order to seize control of their wealth. Equally, subject peoples have fought to recover their sovereignty and the economic benefits it entails. States, indeed, exercise sovereignty to pursue their national interests and economic viability. In some instances, states ‘mismanage’ their sovereignty by indulging in activities that are clearly improper or even illegal. For example, it would be difficult to argue that the sale of flags of convenience for shipping, the provision of shady offshore banking facilities and of lawsuit-proof tax havens do not often cross into the realm of the illicit.Diplomatic recognition has always been at the most sensitive end of the spectrum of state responsibility. It should be. It is the constitutive mechanism that has established the state system and maintains it. The state system has been a self-authenticating arrangement since being validated in 1648 by the Peace of Westphalia by virtue of diplomatic recognition.” [69] Even today, states are the only subjects that have the prerogative of recognising the existence of a state are the other states. The community of states is an exclusive club in which admission is awarded only by the countries which already enjoy the membership. Ordinarily, this process has been too laden with implications and dependent on too many actors to be the object of a do ut des or to be reduced to an auction. Even during the Cold War era, “the trade was in political or strategic alignment rather than in recognition.”[70] States traded for international aid and other forms of assistance to accord their loyalty and support to one side or the other. Even considering the role of ideological competition in hastening the tempo of decolonization during the ‘bi-polar decades’ does not substantially refute this interpretation. Indeed, the superpowers did not need to purchase recognition; they had it already. What they sought was to win more ideological satellites. Clearly, the territories pursuing independence needed recognition to attain statehood, but their status and the Cold War dynamics prevented them from bargaining for it. While, the historical record suggests that bargaining for state recognition is a sporadic and impervious practice, the Sino-Taiwanese rivalry for diplomatic recognition, especially in the South Pacific arena, can be seen largely in these terms. It is, however, debatable whether this recognition-race is spurred in the first instance by the PICs trying to auction diplomatic allegiance or by the two dragons to secure it. For example, James Brooke of the New York Times News Service supported the former interpretation when, in 2004, he claimed that the ‘small islands often offer recognition to the ‘highest bidder’ in playing Beijing off against Taipei.[71] On the contrary, the Economist in the same year maintained that the Cross-Strait competition between in the Caribbean region was to be seen in terms of the ‘two Chinas’ actively vying to purchase diplomatic relations as a commodity. While both sides of the Taiwan Strait reject the allegation that they are recognition-traders, before the establishment of the ‘diplomatic truce’, Taipei has been often finger-pointed as the proactive bidder on the grounds of its ‘complicated’ relationship with the international community. Nevertheless, even the Chinese ‘red dragon’ is regarded as playing an active part since it gains by precluding the diplomatic space Taiwan strives for. This, ca va sans dire, can involve ‘outbidding’ Taiwan to win the allegiance of a aid-needy country. Moreover, in these years, other powers - even though not engaged in any battle for recognition - have resorted to the practice of buying PIC votes in international fora. In fact, sovereignty bestows not only the prerogative of recognizing other states, but also the right to membership and vote in international organizations, the United Nations (UN) in primis. This has provided the small and poor PICs with a durable revenue-earning scheme: converting diplomatic recognition and UN membership into cash.

For example, in 2010 Nauru became the fourth country to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Soon after that, the Russian Federation donated nine million American dollars to upgrade the island’s port.  Georgia quickly found a way to strike back: via Tuvalu. On 11 September 2010, it was reported that the Tbilisi was “providing financial aid to the permanent mission of Tuvalu to the United Nations.” Later it was confirmed that Georgia had paid for a medical shipment to Tuvalu worth “about US$ 12,000,”[72] (roughly, one dollar for each Tuvaluan). Notably, Tuvalu was one of fifty countries (along, incidentally, with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia) that voted in favor of the Georgian-sponsored United Nations General Assembly resolution reaffirming the right of return of all refugees to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Not surprisingly, Nauru (together with the Solomon Islands) was among the seventeen nations voting against.[73] Apparently, Washington has been playing this game too, having had Nauru bulk up the ‘no’ vote on the UN’s recurring resolutions on ‘Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine’ in which the United States tends to look visibly lonely. In 2009, 164 countries voted in favor of the latest such resolution; of the seven countries who voted against, four, alongside the United States, Israel and Australia, were PICs.[74] Even Japan has long been accused of buying South Pacific votes in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) “by paying for the participation costs of a small school of sovereign minnows to enable Tokyo to put commercial whaling back on the IWC menu.”[75] At the 2005 IWC meeting in Korea, this shoal of minnows included five PICs - Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. At one time or another, these five countries voted against Canberra’s and Wellington’s initiatives to prevent a return to commercial whaling or using ‘scientific’ whaling to supply commercial markets. This occurred despite promises prior to the meeting from the PICs that they would support Australia’s position.[76]

However, “China and Taiwan are the biggest players in this game.”[77] They have been jockeying for position in the region with their willingness to work with any island state government - without regard to its democratic and transparency credentials - and to profuse aid and grand gifts to such friends. As previously mentioned, both Taiwan and China have erected needlessly monumental buildings for use by local governments. In addition, government officials from the PICs have (and are) being treated generously and “their incomes are boosted by countless lucrative trips to Taipei and Beijing, helping to support what is often described as a ‘per-diem mentality’.”[78] For instance, Kessai Note, President of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), arrived in Taipei in June 2007 for a five-day visit (his sixth in five years), meeting the then President Chen Shui-bian for a few hours, after which “the rest of his trip was private.”[79] At the end of 2010, the head of the Fiji Islands’ military government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, reportedly visited China twice in less than a month.[80]

In the light of the cases presented above, it could thus be easy to contend that the Islands have a substantially passive role in the market for recognition created by the Sino-Taiwanese rivalry. However, even though - in the words of University of Hawai’i’s Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka - “the Islands are seldom trend-setters, and often trend-followers and trend-impacted,” it would be too simplistic to consider the islands just as secondary and indolent actors willing to ‘go with anybody’ as long as it is lucrative. Equally, it would be incorrect to portray the PICs merely as the cunning and Machiavellian auctioneers of their own diplomatic recognition and international vote. A more realistic way to look at the role played by the governments of the Islands is to regard them as co-creators of the China-Taiwan diplomatic rivalry in the south Pacific.[81]

(Photo: C.P.)


The Pacific Islands Region has an extraordinary concentration of microstates.[82] Only Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) amongst the region’s fourteen states and self-governing countries are not microstates.[83] “The small populations and dispersed geography of most countries impose diseconomies on these states in seeking to meet the normal claims of the citizens for goods and services. If these diseconomies are not absorbed by the state, medical services, education, sanitation and the like could not be provided at the levels expected elsewhere.”[84] This makes the PICs heavily dependent on international aid. Actually, smallness, remoteness, vulnerability and dependency on aid are factors that pervade almost all aspects of the regional affairs. Smallness is also a political fact of life for most countries of the region: all their external relationships will be with states that are larger, more powerful and better resourced than they.[85] The political elites of the PICs are acutely aware of this situation, knowing that the ability to extract aid from the international system is vital for the Islands’ capacity to provide (at least basically) for their citizens and meet their sovereign obligations. Factually, as journalist Mara Kay Magistad highlighted in a 2010 interview to Palau’s President (and a former ambassador to Taiwan) Johnson Toribiong, the aid from one of the two Asian contenders can often make the difference for a PIC. In the case of Palau, the not-further-specified “lot of money”[86] that Taipei has donated to its Micronesian ally over a decade, was “enough to build roads, bridges, a museum, solar power facilities, an incinerator, and help with improving agricultural production.”[87] For this reason, in the case of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry, the islands had to develop an ability to play one dragon off the other, and refine their understanding of the ‘rivalry aid market’. In other words, the PICs had to become skilled - and quite cynical - ‘rivalry managers’. As Senator Tony de Brum of the RMI, one of the politicians who forged cooperation with Taiwan and effectively withdrew his country from the pro-China camp, explained in 2008: “In the past, we abandoned Taiwan and went with China and until 1998 we stayed with it. But then we felt under financial pressure, as we were going through some tough negotiations with the U.S. regarding the Compact. And we felt that we couldn’t beg the U.S. for money while negotiating about defense and finances with it. China’s aid to Marshall Islands was at that time negligible. That is when we decided to go back to Taiwan, which was offering substantial financial assistance.”[88]

The Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry in South Pacific is, in reality, a triangular (China, Taiwan and the islands states) process characterized by informational advantages and feedback dynamics. In this process, the two Asian powers seek to keep an informational advantage vis-à-vis their rival and the island states. On the one hand, Taiwan and China try to keep what they are paying - or intend to pay - for an island state’s allegiance secret from each other in order to make it more difficult for the rival to make an informed counteroffer. On the other hand, both dragons attempt to maintain an informational advantage when negotiating with a PIC.  In other words, Taipei and Beijing try to keep the cost of a relationship down by not letting a seller of diplomatic recognition know that they might be prepared to pay more for the relationship. If a country selling its diplomatic recognition has little information about how much its Asian interlocutor would be willing to pay for maintaining/establishing diplomatic relations, presumably it will not be too demanding.[89] On their part, the PICs maneuver to raise the ‘market price’ of their diplomatic recognition or vote in international bodies. In particular, the islands try to erode the Asian interlocutor’s informational advantage by refining their understanding of their own ‘market value’ and by leaking to one contender hints about the price that the other contender is ready to pay. Actually, one of the main reasons for the fact that only five PICs (Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru) have switched recognition from one rival to the other in the past three decades can be identified in the difficulty the two Asian players face not only in securing sufficiently wide political support among local politicians, but also in maintaining the secrecy necessary to avoid interference from the other contender.[90]

As in other market contexts, in the Pacific Islands’ diplomatic recognition market miscalculations on the value of a certain ‘company’ as well as reputational assets influence the sales and acquisitions process. For instance, China and Taiwan rejected approaches by the islands when they believed requests exceeded the ‘market value’ of a PIC. As for reputational assets, in 2005 “Taiwan initially resisted approaches from Nauru […] before agreeing to re-establish relations, as it had lost confidence in Nauru as an ally.”[91]During the 2000-2008 period - when the diplomatic competition between Beijing and Taipei was at its acme in the South Pacific - some island countries even tried to maximize the rivalry’s dividends by openly and publicly playing on two tables in order to prod the two Asian contenders into a ‘bidding race’. For example, when in October 2000 Taipei refused the Solomon Islands government’s demand for U$40 million in assistance, Honiara’s minister of foreign affairs, who was travelling to Taiwan to attend the inauguration of his country’s new embassy, had a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he was entertained by Chinese officials. Soon after, the then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the media: “We have exhausted all discussions with Taiwan so we have decided to go elsewhere.”[92] However, the amount asked by Honiara was too much for Beijing, and, a few days later, the Solomon Islands government backpedalled. Nevertheless, Taipei thought better to stabilize its relations with the Solomons by according a U$25 million loan to Sogavare’s government.[93] At the end of 2004, when the bidding war for Vanuatu’s diplomatic allegiance between China and Taiwan was at its most heated stage (and Vohor’s government’s demise was nigh), Taiwanese Premier Yu Shyi-kun declared that: “the government is likely to pledge aid while establishing diplomatic relations with a specific country, but has never pledged an extremely large special offer to a single diplomatic ally.”[94] Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kau was even more specific: “we are looking at a combined package including aid and private sector investment of US$40 million a year to Vanuatu and have offered to double the per capita income of everyone in three provinces of the government’s choice in four or five years.”[95]

On a few occasions, some PICs also tried to advance and adopt a ‘Two-Chinas’ principle for the relations between them and the two dragons. Clearly, the rationale of the stance of those governments was the belief that ‘flying two flags’ would enable their country to benefit from the aid provided by both sides of the Taiwan Strait. For instance, PNG officials attempted to cultivate relations with both China and Taiwan ahead of independence[96] More recently, in 2003, when Kiribati decided to switch allegiance to Taiwan after the twenty-three years of good relations with China, the government of Anote Tong said that Kiribati “as a sovereign nation it is not obliged to commit to a ‘One-China’ policy and is free to establish diplomatic relations with whomever it chooses.”[97] Kiribati’s Foreign Ministry stated that, while the country was giving new recognition to Taiwan, it was “not breaking off ties with mainland China and it hopes relations with Beijing will continue to prosper.”[98] Notably, according to Chinese diplomats, only a week before ‘defecting’ to Taipei, President Tong had pledged his commitment to the ‘One-China’ policy.[99] Equally, in 2004 Serge Vohor appeared to believe he could continue to receive assistance from China after establishing relations with Taiwan. From the beginning he made it clear that he did not want Beijing to withdraw from Vanuatu, even writing a letter to China’s premier Wen Jiabao explaining that Vanuatu needed Taiwan as a development partner.[100] In a televised address he also argued that Taiwan and China could complement each other in helping Vanuatu. Vohor’s spokesman was even more explicit, telling the media: “we want to set a new policy in the world, we want to support one-China policy, we want to support one Taiwan policy”.[101] It is not surprising that, given Beijing’s intransigence on the ‘One-China’ principle, such positions were untenable, and only caused the severing of relations between Beijing and Tarawa in the case of Kiribati, and the ousting of Serge Vohor in Vanuatu. In fact, the creative diplomacy of Tong and Vohor was little more than a political statement and an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, both cases reveal that the PICs have the will (if not the capability) to play a pro-active and creative part in the Sino-Taiwanese Pacific rivalry. Actually, a more Machiavellian version of the ‘Two-Chinas’ diplomatic game has been played quite effectively by the Fiji Islands. Suva has opted for “a strategy of officially recognizing Beijing, yet offering enough benefits to Taipei to justify continued financial assistance - and to keep China focused on meeting Fiji’s demands.”[102] Notably, Fiji has been able to successfully implement this policy on account of its regional importance and through not letting the clash of dragons factionalize its domestic politics.

The Cross-Strait diplomatic truce has, to a large extent, deprived the PICs of the space for playing the allegiance-selling game or ‘flying two flags’, but it has also provided the PICs with a great opportunity. The Pacific Island nations can now seize the occasion for acting to alleviate the vicious cycle of dependency (as system and mindset) by inaugurating a more open process of conducting diplomatic relations with the two Asian powers. Of course, such a ‘new paradigm’ would not radically solve the ‘sovereignty for sale’ issue, but it would certainly be a big step in the right direction. Diminishing the influence of aid money in encouraging purely opportunistic choices is crucial in this process. “Basing diplomatic relations only on the fees offered by a given country has profoundly negative effects on the island nations. The situation tends to deepen national stagnation, and abets political cynicism.”[103] The islands states should direct the two dragons to allocate more of their Pacific aid to foster sustainable development projects rather than wasting large sums on showpiece structures like government buildings and disproportionately large sport facilities. At the same time, the PICs’ governments should begin to put to a better use the aid they receive from the two dragons. Often, Asian money primarily supports the political elites, who profit directly (through business deals, contracts and official trips) and indirectly. It is time to benefit the people. It is also time to change the ‘flip-flop-state’ image which penalizes and ridicules the island countries. The benefits of a more mature and responsible system of managing relations with Beijing and Taipei can appear remote and less rewarding than opportunistic behaviour, but in the long term it would advantage all the island countries, especially the weak and vulnerable, and the region as a whole.[104] Sovereignty has always been a double-edged sword - it confers rights and freedom but it also imposes responsibilities. Indeed, the exercise of sovereign prerogatives requires responsibility and vision. Without leaders’ responsibility and vision, the peoples of the South Pacific would find themselves in a situation “often as restraining as when Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian nations were outright colonies of Western and Asian powers.”[105]


Blame the dragon, but hug the panda: Australia and the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific

In 1994, a speech delivered by the then Australian Minister for Pacific Island Affairs, Gordon Bilney, marked the beginning of Australia’s policy of asking a greater return - namely, better governance and higher accountability - from the PICs on which it bestows international aid.[106] This line was strengthened after the inauguration of John Howard’s conservative government in 1996, and appears to inform the Pacific-politik of Canberra’s current Labour government.  This policy has two drivers. The first is the idea that Australian aid recipients in the South Pacific should progressively lower their dependence on their Antipodean big brother, thus lessening the burden on the Australian taxpayer. The second driver is Australia’s growing perception that instability in the Islands represents an immediate threat to Australian interests. After Canberra’s 1999 armed involvement in East Timor, Australia endowed itself with an interventionist doctrine aimed protecting Australian security interests through actively preventing and arresting the failure of PICs: the ‘Howard Doctrine’. The core of this doctrine is that “Australia would more readily intervene militarily in its own region in accordance with its own interests.”[107]

While Australia was developing and pursuing its interventionist and ‘good governance’ agenda for the South Pacific, the region wad also turning into a key arena in an increasingly intense Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry. The resulting higher degree of political instability in some of the PICs caused Canberra to consider the rivalry as factor challenging Australian interests. As a consequence, the Cross-Strait rivalry became an increasingly significant variable of Australia’s South Pacific equation, and the region came to be a progressively important area of antagonism in Australia’s relations with Taipei and Beijing.

While Australia continues to lead in the South Pacific, Canberra’s ability to shape outcomes in the region is limited by the geopolitical interest of extra-regional powers. In fact, because of the number as well as the geopolitical weight of the external actors, Australia has no real chance of denying a role to external influence. This limitation is has a severe impact on Australia’ primary objective of establishing greater accountability and transparency in aid management in the Islands. Due to the sovereign status of the PICs, to further its governance agenda Australia has to seek the collaboration of the local political elites (‘carrot’ strategy) or resort to the threat of putting its aid on hold in order to achieve policy compliance by the recipient governments (‘stick’ strategy). The effectiveness of the employment of the stick and/or carrot strategies is considerably reduced by the availability of other actors’ no- or a-few- strings attached funds as a financial alternative for South Pacific politicians. In particular, “China and Taiwan’s diplomatic and financial practices compound(ed) the governance issues that Australia is attempting to address.”[108] For this reason, the ‘cash-battle’ between Taiwan and China has brought the two dragons into conflict with Australia. Consequently, Australia had been publicly and privately warning China and Taiwan about the dangers of ‘chequebook diplomacy’ unhinging Island governments and promoting corruption among political elites.[109] For example, a 2006 Australian senate report said diplomatic rivalries could harm stability and economic development in the South Pacific. It described the Sino-Formosan competition as a “Pacific cold war”, with both sides using “chequebook diplomacy.”[110]

While Beijing’s no-strings-attached and ‘value free’ aid policy clearly obtrude Australian ‘grand Pacific vision’ as much as (if not more than) Taipei’s past ‘dollar diplomacy, the importance of China to Australia’s wider interests often results in South Pacific issues being downplayed, to an extent, in the interest of sustaining the broader Sino-Australian relationship. In fact, although Australia’s relationship with Taiwan is very significant, Taiwan’s lesser importance to Canberra’s core interests means South Pacific policy irritants more readily take precedence in Taiwanese-Australian ties.[111] On the contrary, the matrix or hierarchy of Australia’s international interests means that Canberra would never risk its broad relationship with China over differences in the South Pacific.[112] Consequently, the Australian interaction with China in the region has elements of contest, but it is a muted, carefully limited competition in which Canberra is most unlikely to allow South Pacific concerns to jeopardise its larger interests in relations with Beijing.

Actually, while Australia’s interests demand that Canberra adopt an indulgent ‘panda hugger’ attitude toward China, until recently Australia has behaved as a ‘dragon slayer’ toward Taiwan. For example, the sustained public Australian criticism of Taiwan following the above mentioned 2006 post-election civil unrest in the Solomon Islands - a country that has longstanding ties with Taipei and a close association with Australia - caused serious harm on Taiwan’s reputation in Australia. The incident also contributed to the then Taiwanese administration’s perception of “Australia as being increasingly pro-China.”[113] Such a perception was reinforced by Australian media’s singling-out of Taiwan as a Pacific troublemaker. For example, in October 2006 the Sydney Morning Herald accused Taiwan of funding Solomon Islands’ attorney-general Julian Moti’s - whose extradition was demanded by Canberra on child sex tourism charges - escape from Papua New Guinea (despite it being on a Port Moresby’s military plane). On that occasion, the newspaper argued, “While a lot of Australians see Taiwan as a brightening torch of democracy in Greater China, in our own neighbourhood it risks appearing more like a rogue nation.”[114] It is reasonably inferable that Australian media organizations would have not made such attacks on Taiwan “if not for the lead and encouragement provided by Canberra.”[115]

The Australian inclination to make Taiwan a scapegoat might have been an epiphenomenon of Australia’s reluctance to acknowledge the ambitious nature of its agenda vis-à-vis the political, economic and social conditions of the PICs. Actually, as Joel Atkinson piercingly points out, “it is debatable to what extent China and Taiwan weaken Australia’s reform agenda simply through providing South Pacific governments with funds to misuse. Presumably, if Australia’s efforts were effective, the administration of aid from China and Taiwan would improve accordingly.”[116] Officially, Australia does not encourage the PICs recognising Taiwan to sever relations with Taipei and switch to Beijing. However, in the past, when the government (or a group within a government) in an island country that gives allegiance to China has sought to shift to Taiwan, Australia decided to intervene in favour of the Middle Kingdom. Two telling examples of Canberra’s ‘partiality’ are Australia’s political intervention in Papua New Guinea in 1998 and in Kiribati in 2003. Australian lobbying with Papua New Guinea led to the resignation of that country’s Prime Minister Bill Skate and the denouement of his bid to establish relations with Taipei.[117] As for Kiribati, in what Atkinson calls “a largely unpublicised and lower-level intercession,”[118] the Australian High Commissioner attempted, to no avail, to induce Kiribati’s President Anote Tong to give up his resolve to ‘defect’ to Taiwan.[119] Even though Canberra’s initiatives in PNG and Kiribati were presumably inspired by a concern for regional governance standards and political stability, and not for Taiwan per se, nonetheless in the PNG episode Australia’s action prevented Taiwan from achieving greater influence in the South Pacific. According to confidential interviews conducted by Joel Atkinson in 2006, “as Australia has not had a noticeable detrimental impact on China’s policy, Taiwanese policy-makers have come to believe that Australia is actively cooperating with China in its efforts to exclude Taiwan from the region.”[120]

This atmosphere of mutual distrust between Taiwan and Australia was reflected and further poisoned by the conflict that developed in 2004 over the then Ni-Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor’s intention to shift allegiance to Taiwan. Already entangled in a tussle with Canberra over ‘good governance’, Vohor signed an agreement giving diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, believing that he could subsequently persuade his ministers and the parliament of the benefits in combining Taiwanese and Chinese aid.[121]Beijing’s threat to ‘freeze’ its aid to Vanuatu, determined bidding competition with Taipei, and intelligent exploitation of the divisions within the ruling coalition - together with several faux pas by Vohor - ultimately led to the Prime Minister’s ousting.[122] Because Australia’s interests in having Vohor dismissed was directly opposed to Taiwan’s interests in having him in office, the Antipodean power played a non-secondary role in the sequence of events that brought to the end Taiwan’s hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with Vanuatu. While it is unclear whether Canberra or Beijing played the greater role in Vohor’s defeat, it is certainly clear that China and Australia’s combined pressure made his removal inevitable.[123] Moreover, as the events below show, in the ‘Vanuatu crisis’ Australia openly took sides with China and domestically and internationally embarrassed the Taiwanese administration, thus embittering Taipei’s resent toward Australia. Equally, Taiwan’s reputation in Australia was further tarnished. This prejudice then contributed to Australian perceptions that “Taiwan both manipulated the April 2006 Solomon Islands election and caused the subsequent rioting.”[124]

At the eve of the fatal no-confidence vote against Vohor, two Australian officials arrived in Vanuatu for ‘consultations’ with a large number of politicians and personalities. Vohor declined to see the Australian envoys, but in a media conference the two officials uttered Canberra’s threat to cut the annual A$31 million (US$24.5 million) aid program unless Port Vila returned to governance reform. They also offered the more-aid-carrot if Vanuatu complied.[125] At the same time, “increasingly concerned about its governance agenda in Vanuatu, Australia” had “privately urged China not to engage in bidding for influence, but was ignored.”[126] On the contrary,  the Australians made their clash of  interests with Taiwan public when a reporter asked Rick Wells, one of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) envoys,  if “ the current situation involving Vanuatu moving away from the One China Policy and supporting Taiwan, [would be] a concern for your government . . . given that you are pro-One China?” Wells replied:

Yes it would. We have stated very clearly to the Government of Vanuatu and to other South Pacific countries that we think that the best course of action they can follow in this respect is to pursue a One China Policy. We regard ‘bidding war’ between China and Taiwan as destabilizing and ultimately bad for any country in question.[127]

Such a pro-China utterance elicited a piqued response from Taipei, where the statement was interpreted as evidence that Australia was yielding to Chinese pressure. A spokesman quoted Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen as declaring:

We would like to appeal to the Australian government not to be influenced by China  and interfere in Vanuatu’s domestic affairs at this time, especially as Prime Minister Serge Vohor is encountering difficulties within the Vanuatuan Cabinet . . . it is hard for one not to believe that there is no association between the move made by Australia and influence from China.[128]

Taiwan’s foreign minister had earlier met the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO) head Frances Adamson, Australia’s de facto Ambassador in Taipei, to convey ‘Taiwan’s stern stand’ that Canberra should not ‘meddle’ in ties between Taiwan and Vanuatu.[129] After that, a spokesman for the then Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer threw some water on the fire by denying China had any influence on comments regarding Vanuatu.[130]

After the 2006 nadir in the Formosan-Australian relations in the South Pacific, the issuing of Taiwan’s white paper on international aid and the achievement of the ‘diplomatic truce’ between Taipei and the Mainland represents a turning point in the relationship between Australia and Taiwan. Entitled New Approaches to Foreign Aid, the white paper states: “President Ma Ying-jeou has called on the Government to adhere to appropriate motives, due diligence, and effective practices when offering assistance.”[131] The new guidelines for delivering aid will be the Paris Declaration,[132] “which promises a far more transparent and results-oriented approach”.[133] Secondly, since assuming office in 2008, President Ma has taken a conciliatory approach to China, which has, for its part, largely embraced this new opportunity. The resulting tacit agreement to suspend (to a great extent) the Cross-Strait diplomatic hostilities represents, in the words of analyst Fergus Hanson, a badly-needed “relief for Canberra aid and governance headache”[134]in the South Pacific. Not surprisingly, the end of Taipei’s ‘chequebook diplomacy’ battle with Beijing for island partners and its new focus on improving aid programs in the Pacific have been well-received in Canberra. Indeed, the release of the white paper and the political fruits of Taiwan’s appeasing Cross-Strait policy have greatly contributed to improve Australia’s perception of Taiwan. Canberra is now increasingly looking at Taipei not as a ‘troublemaker’, but as a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the South Pacific, a stakeholder with whom there are possibilities for cooperation in the region. An invitation in this sense has come from President Ma who, on his March 2010 tour of Taipei’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific, after noting that Beijing had sent eight senior officials of ministerial rank to Taiwan since his inauguration, declared: “So one possibility for Australia is to send ministers to Taiwan.”[135]

Taiwan’s new course “also throws down a challenge to China. If Taiwan improves the transparency and effectiveness of its aid program and ends the competition, will China follow suit?”[136] Beijing has signed on to a localized version of the Paris Declaration - the Kavieng Declaration in Papua New Guinea[137] - but, to date, there are no clear signs that the Middle Kingdom is obliging. China is primarily interested in keeping and strengthening the diplomatic allegiance of its allies in the South Pacific and securing access to the natural resources that the oceanic region has to offer. By contrast, Australia’s aims in the Islands are more complex. Australia’s multiple aims have and are at odds with the simple calculus often used by Beijing.[138] The way China talks to the Islands is a clear contrast to Australia’s language. Canberra’s emphasis on good governance, economic reform and anti-corruption policies has no counterpart when it comes to Beijing. Apart from the issue of Taiwan, China runs a value-free foreign policy. Where only the ‘One-China’ condition apply to China’s offer of help,[139] Australia arrives carrying a complex list of demands in its dealings with the Islands, asking for action on everything from patterns of healthcare to regional integration. Consequently, there is competition but no overt ideological struggle between Australia and China, because only Canberra is furthering a value system. Beijing is well aware that Australia’s stated aim in the Pacific Islands Region is good governance, [140] but it knows only too well that the kangaroo - which is torn between trade and security - cannot afford to be in bad terms with the dragon, but needs to keep hugging the panda, even when the hug is awkward and uncomfortable. Australian global interests will always constrain Australian actions in the Islands. For this reason, Australia must seek compromise in its Pacific relationship with China.[141] Consistently, Canberra has acknowledged China’s power and rights in the region,[142] and adopted a stance of pretending that it can always concentrate on mutual interests with Beijing, not areas of difference.[143] Thanks to its ‘realist’ aid policy and diplomacy, China is spectacularly penetrating in the Pacific Islands. Australian acquiescence will be a regional measure of what sort of great power China will become.[144]


Because of their diplomatic rivalry, the PRC and Taiwan have emerged as ‘first line actors’ in the Pacific Islands Region. The importance of their role originates from the substantial flows of international aid they direct toward their respective Pacific Islands ‘allies’, and the strategies they adopt to maintain and win the diplomatic recognition of the island states. China-Taiwan rivalry in the South Pacific has, in many cases, exacerbated corruption and instability in the region. The gifts from the dragons have also aggravated the PICs’ dependency syndrome. Not surprisingly, those pursuing reform in the islands states, have seen the Sino-Taiwanese war of enticements as an impediment to domestic and regional political stability, social development, and self-reliance. In particular, the rivalry has been undermining Australia’s conditional aid policy directed at elevating governance standards in the region. It is indubitable that these accusations are grounded in reality. However, it is debatable whether the South Pacific would be a considerably more stable or less corrupt region without the involvement from Beijing and Taipei. It might be even argued that the Cross-Strait competition has benefited - and benefits - the PICs. For example, it has helped the island states through providing a few-string attached alternative to Western aid. When the uncertainties over the damages caused by the two Asian powers’ rivalry are juxtaposed to the benefits - such as improvements to infrastructure, agriculture, education and health services - whether the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic antagonism has been on the whole a positive or negative force in the South Pacific remains controversial. On the contrary, it would be difficult to question that the diplomatic truce between Beijing and Taipei delivers a great opportunity to the island states, Taiwan, China, and Australia. The island countries - which are significant actors rather than “the static facets of a geopolitical ‘chessboard,’”[145] - are presented with the opportunity to stop bartering myopically their political and economic assets to achieve ephemeral benefits and privileges for the political elites, and put the aid from the dragons to a better use. Taiwan can ‘seize the moment’ to change the perception that the PICs’ governments and peoples have of Taipei’s role in the Pacific. In addition, the Taiwanese government is now free to explore new avenues for closer collaboration with the Western actors, Australia in primis. China can take the time to rethink its South Pacific strategy, and make it more ‘harmonious’, in order to be regarded by the island states and the other major players as a responsible stakeholder rather than a solipsistic buyer of influence that harbours hegemonic ambitions.  Australia - in the light that the truce has lessened the disruptive effects of the Sino-Taiwanese competition - now has the possibility to advance its good-governance agenda in the region by adopting a more empathetic ‘islands diplomacy’ and learning from its own errors. For Canberra, seeking cooperation with the dragons (or, at least, with the dragon who is willing to listen) would be a better option than continuing to blame them. After all, in Chinese culture dragons are benign water creatures. The Southern Seas can accommodate them.

[1] Solomon Times, “Taiwan Pacific Allies Summit”, 23 April 2009,, accessed 30 December 2010.

[2] Jian Yang, “China in the South Pacific: hegemon on the horizon?”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 139-42.

[3] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, Fijian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 2006, p. 90.

[4][4] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 23, No. 4, August 2010, p. 408.

[5] Thomas Biddick, “Diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific: the PRC and Taiwan”, Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 8, 1989, pp. 810-11.

[6] National Australian Archives, Department of Foreign Affairs; A1838, Diplomatic Representatives Abroad- Taiwan -Closure of Post, 1500/2/62/4 PART 1, “From Australian high commission Port Moresby to department, relations with China and Taiwan”, 1 July 1974, 1972–1973.

[7] Randall Newnham, “Embassies for sale: the purchase of diplomatic recognition by West GermanyTaiwan and South Korea”, International Politics, Vol.  37, No. 3, 2000, p. 273.

[8] Thomas Biddick, “Diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific: the PRC and Taiwan”, p. 807.

[9] Chiao Chiao Hsieh, “Pragmatic diplomacy: foreign policy and external relations”, in

P. Ferdinand (ed.) Take-off for Taiwan?London, Pinter, 1996, p 80.

[10] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 410.

[11] Kerry Dumbaugh, “China’s foreign policy: what does it mean for U.S. global interests?’, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress RL34588, 18 July 2008, p. 26.

[12] Graeme Dobell, “Pacific Power Plays”, in Australia Strategic Policy Institute, “Australia and the South Pacific Rising to the challenge”, ASPI Special Report, Issue 12, March 2008, p. 79.

[13] Carol Lancaster, The Chinese Aid System, Washington, Center for Global Development, 2007, p. 2.

[14] Fergus Hanson, The Dragon in the Pacific: More Opportunity than Threat, Sydney, Lowy Institute For International Policy, 2008, p. 3.

[15] OECD, Debt Relief is Down: Other ODA Rises Slightly, 4 April 2008.

[16] MOFA, “Progressive partnerships and sustainable development: white paper on foreign aid policy (summary)”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic  of China (Taiwan), May 2009.

[17] Fergus Hanson, The Dragon in the Pacific: More Opportunity than Threat, p. 3.

[18] Tauaasa Taafaki, “Tuvalu”, The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 19, No 1, 2007, p. 280.

[19] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 412.

[20] Ibid, p. 414.

[21] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”, Japan Focus, 20 April 2008,

[22] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”, International Relations and Security Network, 26 October 2010,

[23] Graeme Dobell, “China and Taiwan in the South Pacific: Diplomatic Chess versus Pacific Political Rugby”, CSCSD Occasional Paper, No.1, May 2007, p. 4.

[24] Fred Vurobaravu, “Parliament debates Vanuatu-Taiwan deal”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 24 November 2004,

[25] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 413.

[26] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[27] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 413.

[28] Angela Gregory, “Islands of influence”, New Zealand Herald, 10 December 2005,

[29] Ibid.

[30] Pacific Magazine, “Minister sacked for not denouncing MOU with China”, 8 August 2006,

[31] Anthony van Fossen, “The struggle for recognition: diplomatic competition between China and Taiwan in Oceania”, Journal of Chinese Political Science, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2007, p. 133.

[32] Xinhua, “China donates fertilizer to Fiji farmers”, 3 February 2010,

[33] Graeme Dobell, &&& p. 13.

[34] See Geoffrey York, “Papua New Guinea and China’s new empire”, Globe and Mail, 2 January 2009,

[35] Eric Harwit, “Taiwan’s foreign economic relations with developing nations: A case study of its ties with Palau”, The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 12, No.2, Fall 2000, p. 469.

[36] Solomon Times, “PM Sikua Salutes Taiwans Investment in Solomon Islands”, , 10 December 2009,

[37] Global Bioenergy Industry News, “Taiwan to Help Pacific Islands Plant Jatropha”, 25 March 2010,

[38] Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan plans to save Pacific ally from rising sea”, Reuters, 23 March 2010,,

[39] Shih Ying-ying, “Medical team visits Solomon Islands, forms relationship with sister hospital”, Taiwan Journal, 13 January 2006,

[40] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 417.

[41] Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan offers hand to sinking South Pacific island”, Reuters, 18 February 2009,

[42] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 417.

[43] Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China dilemma”, The World, 16 March 2010,

[44] I-chung Lai, “Taiwan’s South Pacific strategy”, Taiwan International Studies Quarterly Vol. 3, No. 3, 2007, p. 142.

[45] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[46] China Post, “Austronesian Conference opens in Taipei”, 9 June 2010,

[47] Taiwan News, “How Ma is undercutting Taiwan-Pacific links”, 22 March 2010,

[48] Dennis Engbarth, “‘We were right to come to Palau,’ Chen states”, Taiwan News, 6 September 2006, content.


[49] Rowan Callick, “Bloody Pacific war for diplomatic loyalty over”, Islands Business, April 2010,

[50] Taiwan News, “How Ma is undercutting Taiwan-Pacific links”

[51] Ibid.

[52] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 419.

[53] CCTV, “China seeks to boost economic, trade ties with Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea”, 5 November 2009,

[54] John Henderson, “China, Taiwan and the changing strategic significance of Oceania”, Revue Juridique Polynesienne, Vol. 1 No. 1, September 2001, p. 152.

[55] Henry S. Albinski, “Taiwan and Hong Kong in Australian external policy perspective”, in Colin Mackerras (ed.), Australia and China: Partners in Asia, Melbourne, Macmillan Education Australia, 1996, p. 37.

[56] Pesi Fonua, “China supports South Pacific tourism”, Matangi Tonga Online, 24 October 2005, print spto241005.shtml.

[57] Xinhua, “China joins South Pacific Tourism Organization”, 21 April 2004,

[58] Samantha Magick, “China syndrome: is China the answer for Pacific tourism?”, Pacific Magazine, 1 April2005,

[59] Solomon Star, “SI failed to put Taiwan in Pacific tourism body”, 25 October 2005,, 29 October 2005.

[60] Pesi Fonua, “China supports South Pacific tourism”.

[61] Yun-ping Chang, “Pacific allies to shun summit with China’s premier”, Taipei Times, 24 March2006, p. 3.

[62] Robert Keith-Reid and Samisoni Pareti, “Stirring a Pacific wok: Chinese ploys for power”, Islands Business, March 2006,,

[63] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 420.

[64] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[65] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 420.

[66] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[67] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 421.

[68] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 80.

[69] Ibid., p. 82.

[70] Ibid.

[71] James Brooke, “Typhoon of Chinese tourists hits the Pacific Islands”, Taipei Times, 28 November 2004,

[72] Thomas de Waal, “The Caucasian Wars Go Pacific”, National Interest, 22 September 2010,

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid. Francis Hazel, director of the Micronesian Seminar, remembers how one day a television crew from Israel besieged his office in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Pohnpei. “I wondered what they were doing in this city, which hardly appears on any world maps. Then I understood: the Israeli public was curious about this country which keeps joining the U.S., voting against all UN resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the Middle East.”

[75] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 81.

[76] Chris Johnson “Australia must count the cost of this victory”, The West Australian, 25 June 2005, p. 10a.

[77] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Yokwe Online, “Articles: Marshall Islands and Foreign Affairs Analysis”, 20 January 2008,

[80] SWM, “Bainimarama headed back to China for more treatment”, 12 December 2010,

[81] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 409.

[82] The concept of the microstate implies a level of state capacity below that of the traditional “small power” and is normally related to size of population. For the purposes of this paper, a microstate is defined as a state with a population below 500,000.

[83] PNG with 5,940,775 and Fiji with 944,720 exceed the microstate threshold of half a million population (CIA World Factbook - 2010).

[84] Richard Herr and Robin Nair, “Managing Foreign Affairs in the Pacific Islands: A Case Study” (work in progress), 2007, p. 3.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Johnson Toribiong as quoted in Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China Dilemma”.

[87] Mary Kay Magistad as quoted in Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China Dilemma”.

[88] Tony de Brum as quoted in Yokwe Online, “Articles: Marshall Islands and Foreign Affairs Analysis”.

[89] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 411.

[90] Ibid, pp. 413-414.

[91] Ibid., p. 415.

[92] Jon Fraenkel, The Manipulation of Custom: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands, Canberra, Pandanus Books, 2004, p. 124.

[93] Marc Neil-Jones, “China says US$10 million in aid may be lost”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 5 November 2004,

[94] Marc Neil-Jones, “Council of ministers say ‘no’ to Taiwan”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 11 November 2004,

[95] Marc Neil-Jones, “Natapei confirms $2m Taiwan offer”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 7 December 2004, www.

[96] National Australian Archives (NAA) (1974) Department of Foreign Affairs; A1838, Diplomatic Representatives Abroad- Taiwan -Closure of Post, 1500/2/62/4 PART 1, From Australian high commission Port Moresby to department, relations with China and Taiwan, 1 July 1974, 1972–1973.

[97] ABC News, “Kiribati explains decision to establish relations with Taiwan”, 9 November 2003,

[98] ABC News, “Kiribati prepares for backlash after recognising Taiwan”, 7 November 2003,

[99] ABC News, “China woos Kiribati to ditch Taiwan links”, 27 November 2003,

[100] Marc Neil-Jones, “Council of ministers say ‘no’ to Taiwan”.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 418.

[103] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[104] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 82.

[105] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[106] Gordon Bilney, “The Pacific island states, rich in resources, need to do better”, International

Herald Tribune, 1 August 1994,

[107] Scoop Independent News, “Australia to become America’s peacekeeping deputy”, 23 September 1999,

[108] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 61, No. 3, September 2007, pp.354.

[109] Phil Mercer, “Chinese rivals grapple for Pacific” BBC News, 4 April 2007,, accessed 21 December 2010.

[110] Brian Whitaker, “Chinese flee backlash from Pacific cold war”, The Guardian, 24 April 2006,

[111] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 354.

[112] Richard C. Smith, “Australia and the Rise of China: Strategic and Policy Implications”, Wilson Center, 16 June 2009,

[113] Michael Turton, “Taiwan - Australia - Solomons”, The View from Taiwan, 30 March 2010,

[114] Craig Skehan and Cynthia Banham, “High-stakes diplomacy in Vanuatu”, Sydney Morning

Herald, 27 November 2004,


[115] Joel Atkinson as quoted in Michael Turton, “Taiwan - Australia - Solomons”.

[116] Ibid.

[117] J. Bruce Jacobs, “Australia’s relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan”,

in Nicholas Thomas (ed.), Re-orienting AustraliaChina Relations: 1972 to the Present, Hampshire (England) and Burlington (Vermont), Ashgate Publishing, 2004, pp. 35-50.

[118] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 355.

[119] Radio Australia News, “Taiwanese official accuses Australia of meddling in its relations with Kiribati”, 27 September 2004.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Port Vila Presse, “Taiwan establishes diplomatic ties with Vanuatu in snub to China”, 4 November 2004,

[122] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, Fijian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 2006, pp.87-88.

[123] “Australia and China moved quickly to re-establish their respective positions in Vanuatu. Downer travelled to Vanuatu shortly after the new government was formed to sign a ‘good governance accord’. Australia’s aid commitment was then increased by some 700 million vatu (approximately US$6 million). China promptly brought Lini [Vohor’s successor, ndr.] to Beijing, where he met with the Chinese president and premier, and Chinese aid was increased significantly. China also announced that US$1 million would be provided in cash to support the new government’s budget. The parties signalled that a diplomatic mission would soon be established in Beijing, with an additional consul in Hong Kong ‘on the cards’. On his return, Lini announced that he wanted a law to enforce a ‘one China policy’. China later agreed to two separate defence agreements with Vanuatu worth 32.8 million vatu (approximately US$320,000). These agreements provided equipment, vehicles and uniforms for the Vanuatu military and police. The Chinese further promised two patrol boats).[…] China also moved to approve Vanuatu as a destination for Chinese tourists. Vanuatu was included in a RMB3 billion (approximately US$374 million) over three years concessionary loan scheme for South Pacific countries. Along with Samoa, Vanuatu exports were granted zero tariff entry into China and Vanuatu’s existing debt with China was cancelled. China also provided assistance in buying Vanuatu a new passenger jet. Vohor became opposition leader after his parliamentary defeat, swiftly apologising to the Chinese ambassador so as to renew his party’s (apparently very valuable) links with the CCP.” (Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, pp. 361-362)

[124] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 362.

[125] ABC News Online, “Australia threatens to cut aid to Vanuatu”, 26 November 2004,

[126] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 359.

[127] Australian High Commission (Port Vila), “Transcript of Australian officials press conference”, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 26 November2004,

[128] Tai-lin Huang, “Vanuatu: Canberra told not to meddle: MOFA Taiwan”, Taipei Times, 30 November 2004,

[129] Ibid.

[130] AAP, “Vanuatu aid moves anger Taiwan”, 30 November 2004,

[131] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of China (Taiwan), “Partnerships for Progress  and Sustainable Development - White Paper on Foreign Aid Policy”, May 2009,

[132] “The Paris Declaration, endorsed on 2 March 2005, is an international agreement to which over one hundred Ministers, Heads of Agencies and other Senior Officials adhered and committed their countries and organisations to continue to increase efforts in harmonisation, alignment and managing aid for results with a set of monitorable actions and indicators.” (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “The Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action”, no date,,3343,en_2649_3236398_35401554_1_1_1_1,00.html).

[133] Fergus Hanson, “Relief for Canberra aid headache”, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2009,

[134] Ibid.

[135] Ma Ying-jeou as quoted in Rowan Callick, “Taiwan in appeal for closer contact”, The Australian, 29 March 2010,

[136] Fergus Hanson, “Relief for Canberra aid headache”.

[137] “Kavieng Declaration on Aid Effectiveness: A Joint Commitment of Principles and Actions between the Government of PNG and Development Partners”, 15 February 2008,

[138] Graeme Dobell, “China and Taiwan in the South Pacific: Diplomatic Chess versus Pacific Political Rugby”, CSCSD Occasional Paper, No.1, May 2007, p. 4.

[139] Jian Yang, “China in the South Pacific: hegemon on the horizon?”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, 2009, p. 141.

[140] Graeme Dobell, “Pacific Power Plays”, in Australia Strategic Policy Institute, “Australia and the South Pacific Rising to the challenge”, ASPI Special Report, Issue 12, March 2008, p. 80.

[141] Allan Patience, “Japan, Australia and Niche Diplomacy in the South Pacific”, in Joseph A. Camilleri (ed.), Asia-Pacific geopolitics: hegemony vs. human security, pp. 145-162.

[142] Hug White, “Striking a new balance”, 8 November 2010, The Age,

[143] Ishaan Tharoor, “China Broadens Its Strategy in the South Pacific”, Time, 7 September 2010,,8599,2016287,00.html.

[144] C. Steven McGann, “The Changing Roles of U.S., Australia, China and India in the South Pacific”, address to the Asia Society, Washington D.C., 5 October 2010,

[145] Matthew Hill, “Chessboard or ‘Political Bazaar’?”, Revisiting Beijing, Canberra and Wellington’s Engagement with the South Pacific”, Security Challenges, Vol. 6, No. 3, Spring 2010, p. 41.

Friday, 01 April 2011 16:17

Falling Off The Map: Global Issues from a Regional Perspective

I contend that Oceania is falling of the map because politicians and economists are pushing it off the map. Only people in academia use the word "Oceania", we use the word "Pacific" or "Asia-Pacific" but it is very unusual to use the word "Oceania".  I claim that one of the largest groups that can help to keep Oceania on the map is the Catholic Church...

Friday, 25 March 2011 16:52

The 'Kurile Islands': How Far Do They Stretch?

Yakov Zinberg is a lecturer in International Relations at Kokushikan University in Tokyo, and North East Asia regional editor for Boundary and Security Bulletin (IBRU, Durham University, UK). He has published extensively in Japan's territorial issues in English and Japanese. In this interview he discusses Political power transition in Japan and the Northern territories issue.

Thursday, 24 March 2011 22:39

A Möbius Strip of knowledge

This article below is Grant McCall's full paper: Mapping and unmapping the Pacific –nesias. Thoughts to turn over on a flowing Möbius Strip of knowledge. The paper was prepared to accompany the speech he gave on Feb.16th at National Central Library, Taiwan.

Thursday, 24 March 2011 22:10

Locating a promise land: from Taiwan to Oceania, from History to Literature

The young scholars session at the Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific conference held at the National Central Library, Taiwan gave three promising young scholars the chance to present their highly original work. Yedda Wang was part of a group of Asian students invited by Leiden University's Encompass program to study the history of Asia through Dutch colonial archives. She is a scholar trying to break through Western academic traditions and find her own way. In her speech Yedda introduced her past and current thesis projects and gave anecdotes lamenting the obstacles to her own historical direction.

Alternative (for readers in China)

Taiwan and Oceanian islands share quite a few things in common. In text-based fields such as history (archives) and literature (literary works), one is provided with ample examples of such points of convergence. Islands from both regions are plagued with colonial memories, though of different spans and under different powers; indigenous peoples from both regions consisting of many languages and cultures are mostly non-literate and thereby represented by others but themselves in written materials; and since mid-20th century, locally-born scholars, writers, activists et al. start to challenge in multiple ways the danger of stories produced not entirely from within but undoubtedly about them. The fact that these dots of land share such a diversity of both colonial and postcolonial experiences holds great promises to historical and literary studies especially on such themes as the transformation of indigenous societies, representation, identity, agency, the other, the writing of history et cetera. In other words, there is a promise land of convergence to be located. Based upon the same author’s previous studies in Leiden, this essay intends to show how history and literature in combination may contribute to the understanding Taiwan and Oceania, and how this understanding of Taiwan and Oceania, either taken as separately or symbiotically, may further enlighten about certain abovementioned themes.

The Stranger-King

In history, Wang’s research into Indigenous-Dutch relationships on 17th-century Formosa invites readers to reconsider a concept as the Stranger-King, developed in Oceania, for the explanation of colonial relationships:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Notions of time

Alternative (for readers in China)

In literature, Wang’s study of Patricia Grace (Maori) and Syaman Rapogang (Tao) stresses how contemporary indigenous writers, with their eyes on present post-colonial indigenous societies, have provided insights into the study as well as the writing and rewriting of the other. Their craft is worthy of consideration and their products can very well be the sources for historical studies. For an indigenous society, the past is never far from the present. A dialogue between colonial history and contemporary indigenous literature will therefore help us locate the promise land.

Photo: Lee Tian-hsiang

See Yedda's article about Lanyu author Syaman Rapongan, A subaqueous loner

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 17:17

Celebrating Connections among our Sea of Islands

Noai e mauri:  Noaia e mauri is how we greet each other on Rotuma, a Polynesian island 300 miles north of Fiji, and my original homeland. This greeting literally translates as “Thank you for your life.” Let me change that to “Thank you for your lives”, all of you attending this important conference. Your presence brings much prestige, and your knowledge has enriched, and will continue to enrich, our discussions at this conference.

I want to thank the organizers and funders for bringing us all together, from far and near, and for all their hard work in putting together this landmark event. I also want to thank June Lee in particular. She has been in touch with me over several months now, and I must admit to being impressed by her negotiation skills. Without her tenacity, efficiency and diplomatic skills, I wouldn’t be here. June – Faiaksia, which means thank you, in the Rotuman language.

In this short presentation, I want to reflect upon the work and the words of the late Professor Epeli Hau`ofa of Tonga, the man whose job I have now inherited. In my opinion, Epeli was, and still is, the most influential thinker in the field of Pacific Studies for the past twenty years or so. He didn’t write all that much – a comic novel, a collection of satirical short stories, a slim volume on his research, and a number of essays – but whatever he wrote was remarkable because of its perceptive and inspired visionary take on Oceanic life. Although his fiction is more entertaining than his other works, I want to highlight his essays, most of which have been published under the title: We are the Ocean: Selected Works.

Alternative (for readers in China)

If you are not familiar with Epeli’s writing, I would encourage you to buy yourself a copy of We are the Ocean and read it before you go to bed at night, and as soon as you get up in the morning. I did that last night and this morning as well, and I am the better for it. But be careful, it is the kind of book that could possess you, which is what happened to me this morning. My alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, showered, and got ready for breakfast, only to realize that my iphone was still in Fiji time, and that the correct time in Taiwan was 1 a.m. Yes, one in the morning. So what was I to do? All dressed up and nowhere to go. I took out my speech, and in rereading it, found myself rewriting it like a man possessed by Epeli’s spirit. Well, they say in parts of Polynesia that around two or three in the morning is when the spirit world is most active, and I can vouch for that. According to my abstract, I was supposed to talk more about the arts, but Epeli wanted me to talk more about himself (how could I refuse the man?) Epeli took me in a different direction. But being a spirit he knows more about what our needs are in this conference than I do and I am quite happy to be guided by him.

I should remind you that Epeli passed away about two years ago now, and that I get no royalties for recommending his book. Just in case you are wondering . . .

In 1997, Epeli founded the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Epeli’s vision for the Centre is that it would become a safe and protected space where artists – painters, dancers, woodcarvers, sculptors, and musicians particularly – could come together to create original works of art without fear or prejudice. Thirteen years later, the Centre has acquired a reputation for the development, creation, and promotion of innovative and original art, particularly in the area of contemporary dance, music, and painting. It has also grown in terms of its physical and human resources, and now it has become a vital and dynamic Centre, not just at USP but increasingly for the rest of Oceania as well.

Owned by 12 nations within our Sea of Islands, a phrase made popular by Hau`ofa in his influential essay of the same title, USP is one of only two universities in the world (the other being the University of the West Indies) that can be said to be truly regional, with 14 campuses spread out over an ocean that covers one-third of the earth’s surface. Students at USP are drawn mainly from USP’s owner countries -- Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu – and the result is a very diverse student body.

It is no surprise then that since its humble beginnings in 1968, the creation of a regional identity at USP, instead of a narrow and nationalistic one, has always been a challenge. Ugly incidents of brawls between certain ethnic groups, such as Tongans versus Samoans, ultimately led to USP’s leaders abolishing its once popular Pacific Week when cultural groups on campus performed their dances and demonstrated aspects of their cultures with pride and sometimes with defiance. Today, although ethnic dances can still be seen on campus and students still tend to hang out and socialize according to their own cultural groups, the ugly brawls of former years seem to have disappeared. Instead, what has emerged is a regional identity, based firmly on traditional cultures of our ancestors, but free of their shackles, as well as those of former colonial powers. This has come about mainly because of efforts to encourage students to form social groups according to interests rather than culture.

Leading the creation of this regional identity was, and is, the Oceania Centre where students from different ethnic backgrounds can be seen working and playing together. The Oceania Centre therefore provides a model for the creation of identities that are open and fluid, instead of closed and unchanging.

Taking its cue from the vast and ever flowing Pacific Ocean whose waters wash and crash “on the whole Pacific Rim from Antarctica to New Zealand, Australia, South East and East Asia, and right around to the Americas,” the Oceania Centre in Fiji draws its inspiration not just from within Oceania, but also from East and West. In Hau`ofa’s words, the Oceania Centre promotes the kind of identity “that transcends all forms of insularity島國性質, to become one that is openly searching, inventing, and welcoming.”

Hauofa’s vision focuses on the vast ocean, and not on the small islands that our colonizers and our detractors tell us are too small and will always be dependent on the largesse of larger nations. By encouraging us to mentally shift our perspective, Epeli liberates our minds to recognize that the world of our ancestors was as vast as the Pacific ocean and that Oceanians traversed its highways long before the arrival of Captain Cook.

It is in this spirit of expansion that we welcome and launch the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies, the newest Pacific Studies organization in the world. Like a new canoe that has taken years to build and has just been completed, the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies is about to leave the safety of land and venture out into the wide open ocean, where seas can be rough, and the weather stormy. This, however, is a journey that our ancestors took thousands of years ago when they left these shores and ventured out to find new and unknown lands in what we call today the Pacific Ocean. Our ancestors must have been brave men and women, for there was so much more that was unknown then than is the case today. But this doesn’t mean that this new journey is going to be less difficult, because like all long canoe journeys, successful arrival at destination will depend on careful preparation and planning, physical and intellectual prowess, and when necessary, sheer determination and tenacity when the seas become rough and hurricanes or cyclones threaten to destroy the canoe and every brave person on it.

On the eve of your departure into the blue continent, may I make a few suggestions that might help you on your maiden voyage. Please take whatever you feel might be useful, and discard whatever you feel will only burden and weigh you down. And since you want your canoe to skip along the surface of the Ocean blue with speed and ease, let me suggest then that you take with you just three baskets of sand. I call these baskets of sand because in our mythology, it was sand poured on rock that created Rotuma.

Please fill your first basket, let’s call this the responsibility basket,  with this quote from Epeli’s essay titled “The Ocean in Us” in which he wrote: “Our most important role should be that of custodians of the ocean: as such we must reach out to similar people elsewhere in the common task of protecting the sea for the general welfare of all living things” (55). It is this feeling of responsibility toward the Ocean that led Epeli to use the term Oceania instead of Pacific for the name of his Centre. Given our sea-faring heritage, I think we would agree with Epeli’s emphasis on the importance of the ocean to all of us, particularly now that sea-level rise has become an issue of pressing concern.

In your second basket, let’s call this the inheritance basket, and this is a big one, please fill it with this quote, from Epeli’s essay titled “Pasts to Remember”: “To remove a people from their ancestral, natural surroundings or vice versa—or to destroy their lands with mining, deforestation, bombing, large scale industrial and urban developments, and the like – is to sever them not only from their traditional sources of livelihood but also, and much more importantly, from their ancestry, their history, their identity, and their ultimate claim for the legitimacy of their existence. It is the destruction of age-old rhythms of cyclical dramas that lock together familiar time, motion, and space. Such acts are therefore sacriligeous and of the same order of enormity as the complete destruction of all of a nation’s libraries (think Library of Congress), archives, museums, monuments, historic buildings, and all its books and other such documents” (75).

In your third basket, let’s call this the identity basket because it deals with the arts, this is what Epeli wrote in his essay titled “Our Place Within”:  He wrote: “We begin with what we have in common and draw inspiration from the diverse patterns that have emerged from the successes and failures in our adaptations to the influences of the sea.  From there we can range beyond the tenth horizon, secure in the knowledge of the home base to which we will always return for replenishment and revision of the purposes and directions of our journeys. We shall visit our people who have gone to the land of diaspora and tell them that we have built something: a new home for all of us. And taking a cue from the ocean’s everflowing and encircling nature, we will travel far and wide to connect with oceanic and maritime peoples elsewhere, and swap stories of voyages we have taken and those yet to be embarked on. We will show them what we have created; we will learn from them different kinds of music, dance, art, ceremonies, and other forms of cultural production. We may even together make new sounds, new rhythms, new choreographies, and new songs and verses about how wonderful and terrible the sea is, and how we cannot live without it. We will talk about the good things the ocean has bestowed on us, the damaging things we have done to them, and how we must together try to heal their wounds and protect them forever.”

These three baskets-- baskets of responsibility, inheritance, and identity-- will be enormously helpful as you carry out research in Oceania and among Oceanians, people of the sea. When you make landfall, pour these baskets liberally on the rocks along the coastline, and new islands will form.

Let me conclude then with Epeli’s observation that the ocean connects us all, you here in Taiwan, to the rest of us in the Pacific, and that at one time, before our colonizers arrived and carved up the Pacific into Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia (leaving out Taiwan altogether), and required us to have passports and visas before we travelled among our sea of islands, our ancestors traversed the seascapes like highways that connected one island to another.

Epeli exhorts us to free ourselves from colonial thinking, and reconnect with the larger reality of our seafaring ancestors whose world was anything but small: This is his conclusion to the most influential essay in Pacific Studies ever written. Titled “Our Sea of Islands”, this is what Epeli wrote in his conclusion:

“We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up to this ancient truth and together use it to overturn all hegemonic views that aim ultimately to confine us again, physically and psychologically, in the tiny spaces that we have resisted as our sole appointed places and from which we have recently liberated ourselves. We must not allow anyone to belittle us again, and take away our freedom.”

Thank You again for your kind invitation to address this esteemed gathering tonight. I look forward to the rest of this conference, and to everything else you have planned for us during this time we have together.

Ma ta ma maria’ ma of sia. And that is the end of my speech.



Wednesday, 23 March 2011 10:09

Music as a Marker of Human Migrations

Debate on the question of how and why music varies cross-culturally was recently reawakened by the provocative claim that traces of the ancient migration of anatomically modern humans out of Africa can be heard in contemporary songs (Grauer 2006). Grauer‟s claim drew on data from the landmark Cantometrics Project (Lomax 1968), which remains the only global scientific study of human song. At the time, Lomax‟s causal interpretation of the correlation between culture and music – for example, male dominance causing nasal singing – was highly criticized even by other members of the Cantometrics Project (e.g., Erickson 1976).

While Grauer‟s recent migratory interpretation avoids Lomax‟s pitfall, many of the original criticisms of the Cantometrics Project resurfaced in skepticism about music‟s time-depth as a migration marker (e.g., Stock 2006). Could the acoustic surface of music really reflect ancient connections between cultures? If so, are these reflected in performance features (“singing”) or in the structural features (“song”) traditionally emphasized in Western musicology?

Lomax himself was highly critical of the use of Western musical notation in ethnomusicology, which he saw as emphasizing surface structural features at the expense of deeper performance features. He spent his life developing a performance-oriented approach that was concerned “not with songs abstracted from the stream of vocalizing we encountered on the tapes, but with the stream itself, with „singing‟” (Lomax 1980). Nevertheless, the Cantometric classification scheme that Lomax and Grauer (1968) developed contained roughly equal numbers of features devoted to “songs” and “singing”.

Our own view differs from both Lomax‟s and his critics‟ in that we propose that the structural features of song should have the greatest time-depth to track migrations, especially when applied to group performance in choral songs. Our reasoning is that structural features such as melody, texture and form require greater consensus among singers than the more idiosyncratic variation that goes into performance, such as timbre or ornamentation. Hence, features like scales and rhythms should be more stable over time than features like nasality or rubato.

These claims are testable. As a case-study to examine music‟s time-depth in the context of human migrations , we have examined the traditional choral music of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, who have been well-studied in terms of music, genetics, and migrations. (Loh 1982; Trejaut et al. 2005; Diamond 2000). Our primary aim, therefore, was to use existing information about the relative patterns of genetic and musical similarity among the Taiwanese aboriginal tribes to empirically test for the first time whether song structure or singing style has the time-depth required for studying human migrations. Our basic method was to compare music – a marker of unknown time-depth – against the best available marker with a well-established time-depth, namely mitochondrial DNA (Oppenheimer 2004).



Of the 14 officially recognized tribes of Taiwan, eight had a sufficient number of both genetic and musical samples to permit comparative analysis: Amis, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), and Tsou.


Genetics: Partial mtDNA sequences for 531 individuals from these eight tribes were taken from the dataset of Trejaut et al. (2005).

Music: YW and SB obtained 364 traditional songs from these eight tribes from commercial and archival ethnomusicological recordings. Restricting our sample to adult, choral songs left 222 songs for analysis. Sample sizes were: Amis=56, Bunun=31, Paiwan=28, Puyuma=32, Rukai=33, Saisiyat=14, Tao=13, Tsou=15.


Distances between samples: Pairwise distances between individual a) genetic, and b) musical samples were calculated based on the number of pair-wise differences between a) mtDNA nucleotide sequences, and b) Cantometric classifications. This is the simplest possible distance measurement, as it makes no evolutionary assumptions about how those differences arose. We reserve more complicated methods that incorporate models of musical and genetic evolution for future studies.

Cantometric classification of the songs was done by VG. Two separate musical distance-matrices were calculated: one using the 15 song-structure characters from Cantometrics, the other using the 14 singing-style characters (see Figure 1 for details about these features). Eight Cantometric characters related to instruments alone were excluded from this analysis.

Distances between populations: For both genetics and music, the 28 possible pairwise distances among the 8 tribes were calculated using an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) framework (Excoffier, Smouse, and Quattro 1992). These distances were measured using a statistic called FST, which represents the proportion of variability among individual samples that is due to among-population differences. Thus, it explicitly incorporates within-population heterogeneity, avoiding the assumptions of within-

population homogeneity that plagued Lomax‟s original statistical methodology (e.g., Henry 1968; Leroi and Swire 2006).

Figure 1. Organization of the 15 song-structure (red) and 14 singing-style (blue) Cantometric classification features used in this analysis. Note that our method focuses on the vocal component of the music and therefore ignores 8 classification features related to instruments.

Correlations: The statistical significance of the correlations between musical and genetic distances was tested using the permutation-based Mantel test (Mantel 1967) using 10,000 permutations, with the threshold for significance set at p < 0.05 (one-tailed). This test controls for the fact that the 28 pairwise distances among the eight tribes are not independent of one another.


Correlations between genetic and musical distances were highly significant (see Figure 2), suggesting that patterns of genetic similarity among the 8 tribes were matched by corresponding patterns of musical similarity. This observation makes a strong case for music having an ancient time-depth in analyses of human migrations.

To examine the “song” vs. “singing” comparison, the two panels of Figure 2 show the correlations between genetics and either song structure (Panel A) or singing style (panel B). Both correlations were significant. However, features of song structure accounted for twice as much variance in genetic distance as did features of singing style (song structure: r2=0.27, singing style: r2=0.13).

Figure 2. Scatterplots of the 28 pairwise genetic and musical distances among 8 Taiwanese aboriginal tribes. Genetic distances (y-axis) are based on an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) of 531 mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Analagous musical distances (x-axis) were calculated from 222 traditional choral songs using Cantometric characters of either A) song structure or B) singing style (i.e., performance). Statistical significance of distance-matrix correlations is based on Mantel‟s (1967) test.


Our main finding was that musical similarities among the 8 tribes were significantly correlated with genetic similarities. This provides the first empirical support for Grauer‟s (2006) claim that music has the time-depth required for use as a marker in studying prehistoric human migrations. Consistent with our predictions, the correlations with genetics were stronger when calculated using features of song structure compared to singing style, contrary to Lomax. However, the differences between these features were not nearly as striking as we had predicted. The simplest interpretation is that both singing and songs are useful as migration markers, which makes the overall case for using music as a marker even more persuasive. It allows for a pluralism of musical features that Lomax discounted, most especially with regard to structural features.

Our findings in Taiwan lend strong provisional support for music‟s time-depth in the case of a relatively recent (~6,000 years ago) migration. Whether music‟s time-depth reaches as far back as Grauer‟s Out-of-Africa claim, however, remains an open empirical question.



Diamond J. (2000). Taiwan‟s gift to the world. Nature, 403, pp. 709-710.
Erickson E.E. (1976). Tradition and evolution in song style: A reanalysis of Cantometric data. Cross-Cultural Research, 11, pp. 277-308.
Excoffier L., Smouse P.E., and Quattro J.M. (1992). Analysis of molecular variance inferred from metric distances among DNA haplotypes: Application to human mitochondrial DNA restriction data. Genetics, 131, pp. 479-491.
Grauer V. (2006). Echoes of our forgotten ancestors. The World of Music, 48, pp. 5-59.
Henry E.O. (1976). The variety of music in a North Indian village: Reassessing Cantometrics. Ethnomusicology, 20, pp. 49-66.
Leroi A.M. and Swire J. (2006). The recovery of the past. The World of Music, 48, pp. 43-54.
Loh I. (1982). The tribal music of Taiwan: With special reference to the Ami and Puyuma tribes. Ph.D. dissertation: University of California Los Angeles
Lomax A. (1980). Factors of musical style. In S. Diamond (ed.), Theory & practice: Essays presented to Gene Weltfish (pp. 29-58). The Hague: Mouton.
Lomax A. (ed.) (1968). Folk song style and culture. New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lomax A. and Grauer V. (1968). The Cantometric coding book. In A. Lomax (ed.), Folk song style and culture (pp. 34-74). New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mantel N. (1967). The detection of disease clustering and a generalized regression approach. Cancer Research, 27, pp. 209-220.
Oppenheimer S. (2004) The "express train from Taiwan to Polynesia": On the congruence of proxy lines of evidence. World Archaeology, 36, pp. 591-600.
Stock J.P.J. (2006). Clues from our present peers? A response to Victor Grauer. The World of Music, 48, pp. 73-91.
Trejaut J.A., Kivisild T., Loo J.H., Lee C.L., et al. (2005). Traces of archaic mitochondrial lineages persist in Austronesian-speaking Formosan populations. PLoS Biology, 3, pp. 1362-1372.


Patrick Savage(1), Tom Rzeszutek(1), Victor Grauer(2), Ying-fen Wang(3), Jean Trejaut(4), Marie Lin(4), and Steven Brown(1)

(1) Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Canada
(2) Independent scholar, Pittsburgh, USA
(3) Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
(4) Transfusion Medicine Laboratory, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan

Photo: Cathy Chuang

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 13:38

New Media in Anthropology and the Lau People

Pierre Maranda is a distinguished cultural anthropologist, and his academic career is renowned for its broad scope and the development of highly innovative research methods. His main innovation is concerning the structure of anthropology, which took root early in his career when he worked on the island of Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands with the native Lau aboriginal tribes. He combines the research methods of social and cultural anthropology, philosophy, literature, mathematics and other disciplines. In 1996 he was awarded the Molson Prize from the Canadian Council for the Arts. The panel of judges praised him as follows: "The international impact and recognition of his research are remarkable. Pierre Maranda is a talented professor and communicator whose lectures and publications have contributed to the dissemination and application of his research findings."

He has worked in various scientific journals and books, published over 150 papers, and participated in more than ten international conferences in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Australia, Britain, France, Sweden, Japan and other countries as well as holding seminars and special events and giving speeches. In 1998 he was granted L'Ordre des Palmes académiques in Paris.

In this interview Maranda introduces the website and how new media can be used to reform anthropology:

Alternative (for those readers in China)

In a second interview Maranda gives us an account of his anthropological work in Malaita in the Solomon Islands and his attempts to retain traditional institutions against a tide of fundamental evangelicanism and modernization, which was later chronicled in his documentary film:

Alternate (for those readers in China)

Below is a summary of Pierre Maranda's key-note speech to the "Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific" conference, held in Taipei in February 2011.

Pierre Maranda  - Key Note Speech (Abridged)

First, I want to congratulate the organizers of this conference for the formulation of its theme and its bearing. They are questioning current ideas about Oceania through a double inversion, actually a paradoxical title. A paradox is a statement contrary to commonly accepted ideas and that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but that may in reality express a possible truth. The first inversion consists of a statement, “mapping” and its inversion, “un-mapping”. The second resides in the contrast between “island” - here understood of course as the thousands of Oceanic islands - and the term “continent”.

Such a paradoxical approach is a most productive dialectical heuristics. Turning an idea upside down questions - which is disturbing - common assumptions. Indeed inversions compel one to work back and revise completely one’s thoughts and feelings on a given subject. Provocative, paradoxes are dialectical in that they trigger disputation or debate aiming at exploring differences between two opposite views so as to come up with a renewed, transcendent one. Accordingly paradoxical statements are heuristic because they lead to higher levels of knowledge. And that in turn, when one reflects on one’s mental processes, leads to what is currently called meta-cognition.

The theme of this conference echoes Epeli Hau’ofa’s important and most relevant essay A New Oceania: Rediscovering Our Sea of Islands. Like the title of this conference that of his essay is actually a paradox.

A quick reminder of who was Epeli Hau’ofa (he passed away in Janyary 2009) -

In the words of our colleague Alex Golub of the department of anthropology, University of Hawai’i,

“Ethnically Tongan, born in Papua New Guinea, educated in Australia, and a naturalized citizen of Fiji, Hau’ofa’s life exemplifies the vibrant, diverse, and connected image of Oceania he promoted throughout his life. Those of us who study Papua New Guinea will remember him as an ethnographer of the Mekeo, but his influence expanded far beyond his ethnographic work — indeed, he is most often remembered as a novelist and author of short stories, and his humorous, satirical writings about the fictional but too-close-to-home Tikongs are widely read both in and out of the Pacific. […] In “Our Sea of Islands” Hau’ofa argued against the then-common (and still-common) presumption that Pacific Islanders lived in small, isolated, remote communities separated by a massive ocean. Instead, he argued that Pacific Islanders were connected by an ocean which facilitated movement and connection. Like all great ideas, it was an inversion of popular understandings that was so true and so timely that in retrospect it seems impossible to imagine how we lived without it (emphasis added). (

However Hau’ofa did not touch on an important point. Indeed what would be the common language, the lingua franca of the “sea of islands”, what would be the continent’s idiom that would enable Oceanians, proud speakers of their native tongues, to communicate with each other? Pijin? English? And how about French Polynesia and New-Caledonia? A lingua franca to the detriment of mother tongues? Actually, as is already the case for instance in the Solomons, Pijin has become the mother tongue of young adults… Will consequently the so many different native languages be doomed? I would doubt it because so many Oceanians have been multilingual for generations in their numerous interactions with people of different ethnicities with whom they maintained trading and other relationships.

Keeping alive the irreducible diversity of native languages is a fundamental issue that must be addressed when considering remapping Oceania. One way to do it is to provide texts in native languages both for the population at large within a linguistic community and more specifically for use in schools. There is a great need in that respect and TSPS could contribute very significantly to meeting it so that whatever lingua franca predominates, it will not jeopardize the people rootings in their own cultures. Oceanians must remain firmly planted in their most fertile Pacific soil in order that their branching out does not entail losing their specific identities that warrant their survival instead of transforming them in pseudo Whites. Solomon Islanders have so often told me

Our guts ache, because we no longer know who we are. We know that we are not White people, we know that we are not sons and daughters of savages as they have called our fathers and forefathers. Christians tell us that our kastom is the work of the devil, that the stories we believe in are all wrong, but how about their own stories, their Bible? We too have stories about dead men resurrecting. But we know that it is no longer so. Is it not the same with their story about the resurrection of Jesus? We don’t know what or in whom to believe.

Years ago, I have witnessed pagan priests arguing with missionaries in Malaitan market places. They told them “David’s and Jesus’ genealogies are good for you, but we have our own genealogies that are good for us and we don’t ask you to learn them. Why should we learn your own genealogies? Then it says in your Gospel that if one has faith, one can move mountains. You have faith, no? Well look, there is a mountain right there, behind you: tell it to move and if it does then we’ll believe you”.

Oceanian identities are function of what is written in the Synopsis of this conference which

aims at identifying the ways of mapping the Pacific in time and space that have been developed by islanders, especially by Austronesian populations. Such "mapping" has taken place through migration roads, tales, songs and genealogies, as well as by astronomic or geographic charts and artistic renderings. Taking these representations both in their irreducible variety and as an organic whole may help a new generation of scholars to challenge the usual ways of looking at the Pacific world, thus enabling the inhabitants of this "oceanic continent" to enrich and develop the interactive process through which they understand their history and destiny.”

In Epeli Hau’ofa’s words(emphasis supplied),

if we look at the myths, legends and oral traditions, and the cosmologies of the peoples of Oceania, it will become evident that they did not conceive of their world in such microscopic proportions. Their universe comprised not only land surfaces, but the surrounding ocean as far as they could traverse and exploit it, the underworld with its fire-controlling and earth-shaking denizens, and the heavens above with their hierarchies of powerful gods and named stars and constellations that people could count on to guide their ways across the seas. Their world was anything but tiny. They thought big and recounted their deeds in epic proportions (Appendix 1, p. 7).

And the Synopsis voices a rejoinder to Hau’ofa’s statement under “Sacred Space-Times”: “Sacred elements in traveling and mapping, missionary routes and their rationale, conversions, new religions and the blurring of traditional religious mappings…”

The tack we have taken in CHEO (Cultural Hypermedia Encyclopedia of Oceania) to represent Oceania rests on the fact that there are major thoughts underlying language and actually structuring the ways their speakers use it, i.e., semantic syntaxes. As a dynamic substratum to different yet interconnected linguistic families such thoughts constitute a thesaurus of collective representations, i.e., ideas and feelings that shape worldviews, and that give people the conviction that they belong together. Some such major themes are universal and cut across linguistic families, others are culture-specific within linguistic families. According to the French semiotician and computer scientist François Rastier (1991, 1992) there are some 350 such major ideas - fundamental “keywords” - in Western societies : God, man, woman, sex, work, money, etc. Of course many other societies share all or some of those basic vectors of thoughts, feelings and behavior. Yet each society maintains identity vectors that enable its members to stand up and let other people know who they are. Here we fully endorse Fr Benoit Vermander’s (2005: 8) statement to the effect that

Though identities are mobile and changeable, they are still discrete entities, and the solutions to our common challenges will remain localized and different in substance. However, throughout the interpretative process these particular solutions will considerably vary from the ones suggested by the traditional understanding of one’s culture and identity, and the array of solutions devised form [sic] one’s culture or group to another will then be legitimately understood as a correlated set of attitudes, choices and decisions.

The “correlated sets of attitudes, choices and decisions”, networks of basic thoughts and feelings - “ontologies” in contemporary terminology -, depend on heavily loaded and deeply engrained culture-specific cognitive processes generating the fundamental “ideas” that structure ideologies. Expressed in cultural keywords as it were they “grip our guts”, Oceanians tell us. And such correlated sets form the ballast of societies, act as gyroscopes that maintain them on course in spite of difficult times that challenge their deep identities and ways of life. As both identities and ways of life must be reshaped without losing their groundings especially in times of crisis, we call those heavy and dynamic keywords “attractors” as I will explain below (Part 3). And, again in Fr Vermander’s words (p. 8),

In this perspective, all cultures, creeds and world-views are perpetually reshaped, and what defines them is never taken for granted but rather is being discovered and challenged throughout the process of exchange and interpretation. Thus, the core of our identity is never “behind” us, it is always “beyond”, it cannot be “essentialized”, it is rather “related to” the Other whose identity is similarly challenged and reshaped. At the same time, this ever-evolving reshaping of one’s culture, creeds and world-views does not lead to a confusion or a mix, it does define and sometimes sharpen one’s sense of belonging and core values (emphasis supplied).

Stimulated by the thought-provoking paradoxes of the title of this conference - powerful mental instruments to map and remap worldviews - are we now ready to take up rethinking and redefining the Pacific islands as Oceania? Perhaps we can try by moving beyond language, beyond native idioms and lingua franca, viz., to reach a level of collective representations that would remap and reshape Oceania. Is there a shared ontology that would “not lead to a confusion or a mix” but “sharpen one’s sense of belonging and core values”? Before showing CHEO’s approach to explore it I will briefly recall the importance of Taiwan as regards that endeavor.






Monday, 21 February 2011 15:24

Playing the drums of life

Ibau of the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan comes from Tuvasavasai (Qingshan), Pingtung. Field studies from her early research experiences have became important inspirations for her writing.

In 1999, Ibau started studying theatre performance. She practiced drumming, martial arts and meditation at Laoquan Mountain’s U-Theater in Muzha.

Sunday, 23 January 2011 15:21

A new world begins

“Where land ends, the world begins.”
This quotation sets the tone as we present our Focus on Taiwan in the Pacific, transcending land’s natural boundaries and turning our attention to the ocean, as we explore a world so unfamiliar to Taiwan. Most of the authors in our Focus are members of the newly established Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies, the creation of which is not inconsequential to Renlai. As the publication and website of the Taipei Ricci Institute, Renlai and eRenlai are key components of the research organisation originally set up by a group of foreign missionaries. Back then, these Jesuits were also navigating bravely beyond the boundaries of their own lands in Europe and America, to experience their own new world beginning.

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 00:00

Matteo Ricci, spiritual resources and partnership

At the conference "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" held in Shanghai in 2010, friend of eRenlai and former managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus, provided the starting point for a discussion on intercultural dialogue,  inspired by Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi. He first gave a speech on the secret of Matteo Ricci:


Professor Choong Chee Pang from the Oxford Institute for Asian Society and Religion gave a response to Michel's wise words, particularly focusing on the importance of China's cultural and spiritual resources in contrast to the factors economic, political and military might that are usually focused on:

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 00:00

Transport innovation on Australia's Gold Coast... and not a surfboard in sight

Famed for its golden beaches and decent surf, the Gold Coast is one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations.  Located just north of Australia's most eastern point, it is now one of Australia's fastest growing and most dynamic cities.  While the Gold Coast's rapidly swelling population represents a challenge for the government to provide suitable infrastructure and services, it is also a fantastic opportunity for the Gold Coast authorities to lead Australia in sustainable development.

Anyone who has tried to drive through the middle of the Gold Coast, particularly during summer, will attest to how unsatisfying the traffic congestion can be. Successfully seizing this opportunity to reconceptualise transport on the Gold Coast will provide an example for the rest of the world as to how a city can ween itself from the toxic teet of the automobile.

Please watch Councillor Peter Young identify how the Gold Coast City Council is seeking to sensibly solve the area's transport conundrum.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 00:00

Green growth in Copenhagen


Green Growth projects
Project: Sustainable energy in the North Harbour area
- The foundation stones for an entirely new city area
- Integrated energy system based on sustainable energy sources
- The city area will as a minimum become carbon neutral
- And in time exporter of sustainable energy

Project: Green Growth and Windmills
Wind energy is connected to the district heating system
- 232,000 tonnes of carbon annually by 2015
- 650,000 tonnes annually by 2025
-The City of Copenhagen buys the electricity
- Possibility of investing in green electricity from the windmills

Project: Energy-systems for storing of sustainable energy
An integrated and flexible energy system providing sustainable energy from
- Windmills
- Photovoltaic
- Geo thermal energy plants

Unused energy may be stored:
- Car batteries
- Hydrogen
- Heat storages

Project: The world’s best bicycle city
37% of the Copenhageners use the bicycle as means of transportation. We wish this figure to rise to 50%.
Bicycle friendly infrastructure:
- More and broader bicycle tracks
- More green bicycle routes free from car traffic
- Green waves through traffic signals
- Improved bicycle parking possibilities


Project: Infrastructure for electric cars
- Sustainable energy for transport
- Charging stations for electric and hydrogen electric cars.

Intelligent meters:
- Access to use green energy during nights
- Payment for charging the carsProject: Climate-friendly renovation of own buildings

Renovation and energy friendly operation: Reducing the carbon emission by 50,000 tonnes
- All municipal buildings = 5% of the total volume of buildings 
- Efficient operation
- Serious savings on operating budgets

Massive investments in green urban development
- we test new green solutionsA business friendly city
- One point of contact for businesses:
- Smooth case proceedings
- Free counselling for entrepreneurs
- At good place to live:
- Room for both family and career
- Highly educated workforce
- Improves conditions for international workers


Saturday, 27 November 2010 16:34

Riga's revolution: other arenas of governance

Inete Ielite chaired Session 3: Other arenas of governance at the conference City Halls to Cancun Corridors: Navigating climate change from local to global. This session looked at the development of alternative and possible competitive forums of governance in the battle against climate change and environmental protection.

Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00

Historical responsibility: have you paid your bills?

City Halls to Cancun Corridors recognised that changing balances of power also affect global climate negotiations. Prodipto Ghosh's lecture clarified and reaffirmed India's position in international climate negotiations. Particularly dear to his argument was the concept of historical responsibility when it came to carbon emissions and climate change.

Thursday, 25 November 2010 00:00

What next for Cancún: stakes and challenges

In December 2009, parties and stakeholders took note of the Copenhagen Accord, one of the documents that emerged from the COP15 and one of the more important documents in the post-Kyoto framework since COP13 resulting from long negotiations. However, the parties in the accord just “took note” and for the time being, negotiations to formulate the Post-Kyoto framework continue. The current negotiation process, including the AWG meetings in Tianjin, identify some key agendas for COP16 in Cancún. Tomonori Sudo joined former Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, Herwig Schloegl and NTU Professor Lee Hong-Yuan, for the 4th Session of Taipei summit Navigating Climate Change from Local to Global. The session entitled "What next at Cancún?" was chaired by Fabrizio Bozzato.

This presentation by Tomonori Sudo focused on the expectations of COP negotiations on key agendas including NAMAs, REDD+ and Climate Finance.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 16:03

Micro clim-action in Moura, Portugal

José Maria Prazeres Pós-de-Mina is the Mayor of Moura, Portugal, who oversaw the building of what was the biggest solar power plant in the world, in a town of just 16,500 people. This led to Moura being a net exporter of sustainable energy.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:00

Managing International Negotiations


The Cancun Conference has to address the key unsolved issues:

How to deal with the twofold asymmetry of mitigation obligations in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol: the legal obligations for industrialized countries with the EU in the forefront and with the US as the most-prominent drop out vs the voluntary contributions of developing countries.

What kind of mitigation commitments can EU and US expect from emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and G20 countries in general, and are these countries ready to accept comparable commitments on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV).

How can developing countries be brought into an overall agreement by financial, technological and technical assistance.

These are not insurmountable obstacles for further progress in Cancun.

The global negotiations have already come a long way. They are well achored by the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This Convention is a remarkable document of insight into and recognition of the global Climate as a “Common Pool Resource” of mankind. It will continue to define the architecture of the international climate change negotiations for the years to come.


State of play before Cancun



A.Areas of evolving consensus:

(1) long term shared vision of CO2 reduction, keeping the rise of the global temperature in check.

(2) common but differentiated responsibilities, e.g. enhanced responsibilities for industrialised countries.

(3) technology and finacial transfers, including capacity building for developing countries.

(4) relevance of science based negotiations, supported by  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and technological Advice (Art.9 UNFCCC).

(5)importance of rising public awareness by the work of NGOs and Civil Society at large.


B.Areas of deep rooted discord

(1) legal, political or voluntary commitments for mitigation measures.

(2) internationally supervised review and compliance mechanisms, based on agreed measurement, reporting and verification procedures(MRV)or selfassessments.


A. Areas of evolving consensus


(1) Shared long term vision

There is an  evolving consensus of scientists about the tolerable maximum of the overall temperature rise in the 21st century, recognised on the highest political level:

G8 Summit April 2009 in L’Aquila, Italy : recognising the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature ought not to exceed 2°C and reiterating the willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050.

COP 15 Copenhagen December 2009: recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2° Celsius

These visions raise a sense of urgency and serve as guideposts for action, but they are by no means a substitute for concrete operational goals and real action.

What really counts are concrete mid term targets, accompanied by regular checkpoints, starting in 2015 to evaluate – in the light of the available science – whether the efforts are sufficient or not (“bottom up approach”).

Whatever the global reductions will be, they will always be the aggregate result of the national efforts of countries. ( As a reminder: The UN Convention reaffirms the principle of Sovereignty of States in international cooperation to address Climate change).

In conclusion:
While not rejecting the visionary goals for general orientation, they cannot serve as the starting point for allocating national quotas derived from these global goals. Such a global top down approach is neither practical nor politically feasable.

(2) Common but differentiated responsibilities

This principle in favor of developing countries is well established in global treaties (see for example the Law of GATT/WTO) but it remains an area of dispute between developed and developing countries, specifically vis a vis the leading emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

(3) Technology and financial transfers


The need for technological, technical and financial assistance for developing countries enjoys general recognition. It will be an important element for reaching an overall package deal in Cancun.


(4) Science based negotiations

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in Art. 9 of the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) provide an important scientific underpinning of the negotiations. Considering the complexity of the issues, these are major pillars in the architecture of the negotiations, making objective reasoning possible.

The two bodies deserve credit for the evolving global understanding that climate change in the 20./21st century is to a large extent manmade. Even the Bush Administration accepted this in its final phase; the Democrats, President Obama, former Vice-President Al Gore and others, have a clear notion of the science related to climate change.

Somewhat worrying are movements like the Tea Party in the US. According to the New York Times (20. Oct. 2010) skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. One member is quoted: “It (global warming) is a flat-out lie, I read my Bible. God made this earth for us to utilize.” Another quote: ”They are trying to use global warming against the people. It takes away our liberty.”(“ The American way of life” ).

Such attitudes are not intentionally meant to be injurious for future generations but they will have the effect. Unreasoned fatalism is not the way to go.”To prevent catastrophes caused by human negligence, we need critical scrutiny, not just goodwill towards others.”(Amartya Sen).

The Nov. mid-term election in the USA don’t bode well. According to the New York Times (17. Oct. 2010), all but one Republican candidates for Senate don’t accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global

warming. The cap and trade energy bill, which was shelfed in the last Congress is probaly dead for some time. It remains to be seen what consequences the Nov. 2 Congressional elections will have for the negotiating position of the US Government in Cancun.

(5) Importance of NGOs and Civil Society


There is probably no other area like climate change where Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs) are urgently needed to support a democratic decision making process. By their engagement the normal citizen get a voice and get heard in transnational intergovernmental negotiations.

Whereas most people can vote and elect their representatives within their national borders, there is a democratic void in crossborder intergovernmental processes. Since lively democracy is primarily about public reasoning, the debates generated by NGOs can be seen as important contributions toward practicing the beginning of global democracy.


B. Areas of deep rooted discord


A closer look at the presumed relevance of legally binding mitigation commitments may help to put the disagreements into perspective.

Within the developed country group the most important industrial country, the USA, left the Kyoto Protocol (2001 decision by President Bush), specifically with reference to a lack of legal commitments of emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

I wonder if it is really such a crucial question for future action whether commitments are legally binding in the formal sense, be it for developed or emerging countries alike. In my opinion the negotiations would be better served if the dispute about the formal legality of commitments would not be put on center stage.

If countries are serious in combatting climate change they should be able to set themselves ambitious mid term targets (2015, 2020) and commit to them nationally resp. EU wide, document these commitments in international for a and make them subject to internationally supervised scrutiny.

We know from many exaples that the formal legal character of international agreements is not a value in itself, considering that effective enforcement mechanisms are normally quite remote, unless one wants to argue for the use (abuse?) of WTO trade sanction or other kinds of sanctions.

What really counts are the real mitigation efforts, controlled by an internationally agreed regular review process based on effective measurement, reporting and verification procedures (MRV).

Recognizing the new Geopolitics: From G7 to G20

Since the 70ies of last century the then most important industialized countries functioned as a kind of global economic leadership group: 1975 G6 (USA, J, D, UK, F, It); 1976 G7 (+ Ca).; 1998 G8 (+ RUS); 2010 G20 (+China, India, Brazil, S.-Afrika, Indonesia, Australia, S.-Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, EU).

In the 90ies of last century it became increasingly clear that the G7/8 did not represent the most important economies any more. Yet it took another two decades to enlarge this group into the G20.

The enlargement decision was taken at the G20 Leaders meeting in Pittsburgh in Sept. 2009:“…to reform the global architecture to meet the needs of the 21st century”.

The Pittsburgh G20 Statement addressed also the challenge of climate change: “We will spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen through the UNFCCC negotiations.”

The first formal G20 Summit was held in June 2010 in Toronto.”…in its new capacity as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.” The G20 Declaration states: “…we are committed to engage in negotiations under the UNFCCC on the basis of objective provisions and principles including common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and aredetermined to ensure a successful outcome through an inclusive process at the Cancun Conferences.”

With more players at the head table, the dynamics of negotiations are changing. The former G7/8 countries have to accept a stronger voice of the emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, based on their respective geopolitical (e.g. economic, demographic, territorial, cultural) weight.

At the same time these emerging economies have to understand their enhanced responsibilities in the ongoing globalization process. This is especially evident in the context of global warming. China is besides the USA the greatest emitter of CO2, Brazil is home of the largest rainforest in the world and India is on its way to become the most populous country in the world, trying to catch up to the economy of China.

The G20 may signal the beginning of a new global architecture, manifesting the end of the bi-polar and the rise of a multipolar world, but the evolving new global order has still to stand the test to lead the world economy and to establish a global Climat Change regime.

Some remarks on the decision making process

The Copenhagen Accord would not have survived just by the goodwill of the Danish Chair. It required the full engagement of some of the big players like USA and the EU, but also emerging economies like China.

This tells a simple story: 
Even in a multipolar world –if we really already live in such a world –successful international negotiations still require enhanced engagement by countries who have the will to lead and can underpin their leadership by economic and political weight.

In this context it is worthwile to look at the overall constellation, which prevented the Copenhagen Accord from becoming a formal document for all Parties. Only six out of 192 countries spoke out against the Accord: Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu, not a very impressive list of countries.

(For some this blocking minority raises the question whether the UN (with its principle of one country one vote) can be the only framework for climate change negotiations.)

In defence of the consensus principle there are at least two arguments: First it reflects the respect for the legal equality of each nation and its sovereignty. Second it is the precondition for having every country on board, when it comes to adhering and implementing a decision. This second aspect is important, because most international decisions cannot be enforced by sanctions or military force.

At the same time, the consensus principle can block or water down urgently needed common actions. It is therefore sometimes wise to allow individual or groups of countries to abstain or move faster ahead than the rest. (In the EU this is called “variable geometry”).

In the UN system the Kyoto Protokol is a pertinent example for such a variable geometry approach. But this remains a reason for controversy.

Complex negotiations are practically impossible beyond a certain number of countries. It is therefore normal that smaller groups try to reduce the differences in the best interests of all, who have to be kept fully informed of the whole process and must stay in charge of the final outcome. The biggest challenge is to build trust between the small group and the rest.

Finally most countries have to make sure that their negotiated outcome gets the approval of their constituency at home: the parliament, the constitutional court and the civil society at large. Climate change policies with its close link to energy policy, industrial competitive issues and the “way of life” in general are of special national sensitivity.

Concluding remarks: What is at stake in Cancun?



It will be decisive for success in Cancun, how the big players, especially the USA, EU, China, India and Brazil will work out their differences on


-       the legal form of the Copenhagen Accord ( binding international treaty or political commitment in the sense of an “agreed outcome”).


-       the future of the two track approach of the Kyoto Protocol Parties and the UNFCCC Parties.


-       the quality of commitments of the emerging countries, especially China, India and Brazil.


-       the establishment of an internationally monitored MRV mechanisms for all big polluters.

Although the developing countries want to keep in place the enhanced commitments of the developed countries in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, a Kyoto II is an uncertain prospect.

It is very doubtful whether the two track negotiations can continue with a Kyoto II (AWG-KP) on the one hand side and the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) on the other hand side.

I think it is a more realistic approach to merge the two tracks into one process and into one agreed document under the Convention. The Copenhagen Accord clearly points in this direction.

Already the Bali Action Plan (Dec. 2007) decided to launch a comprehensive process “…in order to reach an agreed outcome….” This call for a comprehensive process and an agreed outcome does certainly not endorse a two track approach, as some governments may assume.

Such an overall agreement will be extremely helped by offering developing countries, especially the poorest and most threatened ones, clear financial , technological and technical assistance for mitigation, adaptation and other measures.

The described approach moves beyond the dychotomy of the Kyoto Protocol and the Conference of Parties (COP)  of the UNFCCC into the direction of a new architecture:

The negotiating efforts would shift from the formal legality of reduction goals to the establishment of an effective review process for all notificated reduction targets and other mitigation measures.

In a way a globally agreed monitoring regime for implementation of the notified targets would make up for the lack of legal formality of the mitigation targets.

Such a review process should not be so difficult to be agreed. Regular country by country reviews are common place in IMF, WTO and OECD. They apply to all members and not just to a selective group of countries.

The MRV-obligations in the Copenhagen Accord for developing countries point in principle in the right direction, but it seems odd why countries like China deserve a lesser degree of discipline in the MRV process than developed countries.


In conclusion :
Universal legally binding, internationally enforceable commitments are at this point not in sight. Therefore a more pragmatic approach, taking the Copenhagen Accord as the starting point, while also integrating a “Kyoto II” into this framework , has a better chance to produce tangible results in Cancun.














Tuesday, 16 November 2010 16:06

World cities: The case of Greater Paris

As a senator for Greater Paris, Yves Pozzo di Borgo was particularly welcomed to City Halls to Cancun Corridors a conference held in and co-organised by Taipei County (Xinbei City). How could these world cities share their experiences and wisdom for improved urban planning and a better environment?
Here is the speech in its entirety:
Dear Chairman, Dear Friends,

I am pleased and honored to speak today in a meeting that brings together elected officials and representatives of greater Taipei and of so many cities around the world - Asia, Europe, America ... All of us are aiming to make our metropolitan communities more human, friendlier, more apt at balancing natural and social equilibriums, and able to ensure the future well-being of their descendants. All of us are convinced that urbanisation is not a “fate” that will go inevitably with pollution and destruction of resources, but that it rather represents an opportunity that humankind gives itself so as to invent technological, political and human solutions to tackle the evils from which we suffer. The city is a place where imagination can be released, generosity expressed and solidarity forged.

Thank you, Mr. Governor, for giving us the opportunity today to exchange our experiences, and to return home richer in knowledge thanks to what we will have shared. Let me tell you today about the experience of Greater Paris. This is a work in progress since the law that frames this structure and project, passed last June, now serves as a framework for the setting up of urban, strategic, social and administrative operations, which will redraw the landscape of Paris and Ile de France, so as to design one of the largest cities in the world - and - such is our purpose - the most human of all.

The thinking around the world on the relationship between urbanisation and new forms of governance has several notable features: Firstly, everyone observes that we are marching towards a knowledge economy, a system that favours interactions between entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, developers and production engineers. The second feature that characterizes globalisation is that it integrates the power of urbanisation into the economic development of the regions and countries that these cities irrigate. In this urbanisation process the concept of world cities has taken root. The characteristic of such a process is that economic growth is generally much higher among these world cities than in the rest of their countries. There are currently five world cities: Tokyo, London, New York, Paris and Shanghai. Many cities in Asia, especially China and India, and Latin America will eventually reach this status.

Paris Ile-de-France is a world city, a sort of economic giant at the national and European levels, which represents 5.3 million jobs, or 25% of French jobs. 55% of French patents filed involve at least one partner residing in the Paris Basin, which has 70 000 researchers and 25% of French students. In terms of GDP, Ile-de-France is by far the leading European region, ranked well ahead of Lombardy and London. It represents 29% of French GDP, of which only 22% are actually consumed by the inhabitants of the Greater Paris, with the remainder distributed in other French regions. But if the Ile de France appears to be an economic giant at the national and European levels, it suffers from a lack of dynamism in terms of GDP and jobs. It is, somehow, a huge oil tanker slowly advancing! Indeed, in recent times, employment in the region is up by only 9.7%, while it increased in France by 14.2%. During this same period, growth in the Ile-de-France amounted to 2%, while that of Greater London was 8%. Ultimately then, the region of Ile de France could lose its status if it does not urgently address the reform of its governance structures. The figures on the Ile-de-France region are even more disturbing if one takes into account the fact that a group of economists reports an expected drop of 25% to 12.5% of EU GDP in the world GDP by 2050. Therefore it was necessary to build a project that would foster the dynamism of this region, useful to France and Europe: the draft of the Greater Paris. The law passed last June has the following objectives:
  • Conduct a comprehensive transportation system connecting the suburbs, airports and economic areas around Paris. This is the main objective of the law;
  • Make the Saclay plateau a global economic territory based around new clusters of innovation;
  • Create for the implementation of the two aforementioned projects ad hoc proceedings and structures: the Society of Greater Paris as owner of the transportation system, and the Public Company Saclay Paris for the economic governance of the area. The “public contracts for territorial development” provide in turn for a concerted development of the transportation system between the state and local governments.
Let us summarize the situation up until now as follows:
One of the specific problems we meet with is this regional community still suffers from stacking structures. It is not Paris per se which is presently developing, but rather the cities that surround it. The multiplicity of actors - state, region, departments, communes and union of communes - increases public taxation, impede the consistency and efficiency of public decision making, particularly regarding transportation and commuting, but also in terms of housing, urban planning, economic development and structural facilities. To compete globally with sufficient critical mass, most major European cities including Berlin, London or Rome, brought together local authorities included in their urban area to organise their development and management. Even in France, Lyon, since 1966, conducts urban management under a single administrative authority. For the last twenty years, Lyon has remained among the twenty European cities considered most attractive.

The lack of governance structure explains why despite its economic power, the Ile-de-France recorded growth figures lower than those experienced by the rest of France or other European cities. This lack of governance also explains that huge nuggets of jobs are not exploited. For example, the Saclay area is home to two universities and many prestigious schools and businesses. Its campus, in terms of scientists’ numbers and scientific fields concerned, bears comparison with the most prestigious foreign campuses. Thus the number of research publications, used as a criterion of effectiveness in the research sector, is equal to the one registered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and Stanford. And it should catch up very quickly the level of Cambridge. However, at present, commuting in Saclay is ensured only by a few bus and one regional metro station, with no overall vision! That's why the State (in its role as strategic decision maker) had to come up with a bill on the Greater Paris. This text aims at fostering nine urban strategic poles, similar to that of Saclay, and at developing their transport infrastructure so as to support their dynamism. We hope that these nine clusters will eventually become modern cities, each of around 400 000 to 500 000 inhabitants. Thus, the law on Greater Paris tends to bring two main answers for reviving growth in the Ile-de-France and its global attractiveness in the world system. The first answer lies in a transport network serving the areas around Paris, according to a double-loop route that will serve the strategic areas.The second answer lies in the establishment of a ground-breaking cluster of innovation, based on a concentration of world-class universities and public or private researchers installed on the Saclay plateau, with State guarantees to support the development strategy. At a time of accrued competition among major world cities, it was essential to give Greater Paris the scale of, say, Greater London. At the same time, the unity and cooperation of local authorities that together constitute the Greater Paris could not simply be decreed from above. Like any very large region, Greater Paris is an ecosystem and a living ecosystem relies on self-regulation, ongoing consultation, flexibility, and continued creativity - not just planning and prioritisation.

To sustain that ecosystem - and here we enter the heart of our topic - traffic, communication and fluidity are key requirements. And here we have a lot of work to do. 900 000 residents of suburbs come daily to work in Paris and 300,000 Parisians go in the opposite direction. 95% of Parisians live within 600m of a metro or RER, while in inner suburbs it is the case of less than 50% of the population. The average time traveled between home and the workplace is 30 minutes for the inhabitants of Paris and 45 minutes for residents of inner suburbs. Traffic jams remain a sad reality in the Paris region, as experienced by tourists who go from the Roissy Airport to the heart of the capital... Fluid transportation is a key factor for the quality of living in urban areas. When meeting with environmental requirements, finding alternatives for clean transport and increasing the availability of transit is a priority for the future of metropolitan Paris. Today, the travel conditions in the Paris area remain insufficient and uneven, failing to respond to changing needs. The development of transversal transportation across suburbs is a priority. Network saturation during peak hours, lack of stops in small crown, the frequency of failures and ensuing longer transit time seriously harms the quality of metropolitan life. These weaknesses also weigh on the economic life of the city, because they affect the delivery time of goods and movement of employees.

All stakeholders (government, communities, unions and private carriers) are now mobilizing around large projects such as construction of a transport ring, designed to strengthen and streamline the public transport network in a comprehensive planning process. The realization of these projects will allow for the reduction of car use and road congestion, in a context where environmental issues (noise, air pollution, dwindling resources), economic issues, issues of access employment and social cohesion have a cumulative impact. The Law of June 3, 2010 for Greater Paris has defined the Transport Network of Greater Paris as "consisting of infrastructure affecting urban public transport of passengers, with the use of (a) a circular high-capacity automated metro which, by participating in opening up some areas, will connect the central Paris area and the main urban, scientific, technological, economic, sporting and cultural centers of the Ile-de-France region , (b) high-speed rail network and (c) international airports. "The restructuring of transport goes hand in hand with the one of economic and social areas. But it was important for the reasons stated above, to limit the power of the state on the development of these areas. Development contracts concluded with territorial local authorities are therefore an interesting new legal tool.

Reflecting on the planning and development pursued from the ground realities we must avoid copying the models of global cities that, while developing fast economically, are noisy, polluted and violent. The quality of life in a metropolis on a human scale is a key factor of attractiveness.

Since the implementation of the transmission (an automatic metro line running over a 130 Km), and the establishment of a concentration of universities, research centers and industries on the Saclay plateau requires close cooperation with local communities, and important public works, the law allows for special contracts and new public institutions to implement this project, which is considered to be of national interest.

Even if the Grand Paris is a project implemented in the territory of the Region Ile de France, the economic benefits, financing, and implementation work has a national dimension. Therefore, the government, not the region, created a special ministry to propose a bill, and manage the project, which should take place until at least 2020.

On this basis we will be able to develop even further Greater Paris, maybe even to Le Havre, its maritime horizon, 200 kms further away. Mr. President, exchanges such as those we have these days provide us with a sharper awareness of the ultimate meaning of the action of elected officials and policy makers. Let us therefore take full advantage of such opportunity, and foster a spirit of inventiveness and a growing solidarity that will be rooted in mutual understanding and friendship.

Thank you.

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(Photo by Cathy Chuang)


Tuesday, 16 November 2010 15:18

Knowledge networks: diversity in the face of adversity

Benoit Vermander discusses the complexity of the the various networks and actors when it comes to global climate change negotiations and environmental issues. How can these difficulties be turned into opportunities? How can cities take the leading role on climate change?

Thursday, 11 November 2010 15:17

World cities meet before Cancún Climate Conference

Will cities and local communities take the lead when it comes to mitigation action against climate change? This was the definite lesson of a summit held in Xinbei City (formerly Taipei County) on November 8-9 2010.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010 00:00

Towards a global ethic

On May 11th, 2010, the Inaugural International Forum on "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" was held to open the new Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at  Shanghai's Fudan University. Dr. Stephan Schlensog, the Secretary General of the Global Ethic Foundation, Tübingen/Germany, gave his speech on “Global Ethic as the Basis for the Dialogue of Civilizations”.

Thursday, 01 May 2008 02:14

A New Perspective on the Opening and Development of West China

Speech pronounced during the "Cultural Resources for Sustainable Development" Conference, Shanghai, China, April 25, 2008.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Guests:

I feel honored to be able to attend today's Forum which made us all feel the importance of dialogue between culture and development and the role of culture as a tool for self-reflection. This spirit of self-reflection has generated and continues to generate a more and more mature reflection on the historical task that constitutes for the Chinese the development of West China.

Today, being south of the Yangtze river and considering  our geographical opposite North-West China (the former state of Loulan around Lob-Nor in Xinjiang), we cannot but recall how the men living in the North two millenia ago (then in a central position in cultural and economic terms) were describing the state of things in Southern China.

At that time, Sima Qian, the father of Chinese historical science, and Ban Gu, author of the “History of the Han”, both said that “on the south of the Yangtze the land is low and humid, most men die when they are still young.” when characterizing the life condition of people situated in the south of the Yangtze and Hui rivers. They also wrote that in these regions the territory was vast and men were few, and the farmers burned the fields, in order to use the ashes of weed fertilizers, and then watered rice.

Still according to them, fruits, vegetables and fishes were abundant, the life there was easy and the people prone to laziness, not experiencing cold and hunger, and there were no rich families either. One sees clearly that social divisions had not arisen yet, no gathering of important population in one place either; people were speaking a large variety of languages, including ancestor languages of present-day Zhuang, Dong, Tibeto-burmese and Mon-khmer languages  

At the time of the Song dynasty it was already noticed that in ancient times the character “jiang’ (river) was used only when referring to the rivers of southern China. This might have been the case because of the origins of the word in Mon-khmer (kroŋ) that might have produced a loanword in ancient Chinese. Such evidences testify to the fact that in the Yangtze basin there were a number of ethnic groups using Mon-khmer languages.

During the same period, the civilization of the central plains had already developed in a number of areas. Using again the description of Sima Qian, in North China, in big and small towns people were pressing against each other to the extent that if you were attaching their sleeves together you could have made a tent for obscuring the sun. The bustling crowd was scrambling for schemes and profit.

All this points out to a situation in which the North was strong and the South weak, in political, economic and cultural terms, a situation that was to gradually change during the first millennium of the Common Era. The most important reason for the change was the gradual large-scale migration of Chinese-speaking people from the North towards the South and the consequent shift off the center of gravity of Chinese civilization.

This large-scale migration had two climaxes, one around the year 310 and the other around the year 750. The first one was the “Yongjia southward migration”[1] provoked by the invasion from the five non-Chinese people from the North, and the second followed the rebellion of An Lushan that precipitated the decline of the Tang dynasty. The northern people having migrated to the south abandoned the planting of millet, wheat, sorghum and their dry land farming methods in favor of higher rice output. For the sparsely populated South they were not only a precious labor force, they were also most important agents of economic, cultural and social change.

At the beginning of the second millennium of the Common Era, as Northern immigrants and local populations were melting into a new “southern population”, they were able to overcome the disrespect shown to them by the northern Song dynasty and to introduce themselves into the elite circles.

In the years after 1120, the entry of the (Northern) Jin dynasty into the central plains provoked the “disaster of the Jingkang era”[2] and the third large-scale wave of migration from the North to the South. If we compare the southern population of China in the final years of the Southern Song dynasty with the one recorded five hundred years before this time, we discover that the rise of population south of the Yangtze is of 643 percent, with a peak in the coastal provinces of 695 percent. In comparison, the rise in the central plains region is only of 483 percent.

During the same period of time, the rise of population in North China had been only of 54 percent. According to the present evaluation of ancient European agrarian conditions, on the same surface of land the calorific values produced by pasture, wheat and rice were respectively 1, 4.4 and 21.6. This might help us to understand how Southern China was continuously able to receive and integrate such a large influx of immigrants from the North.

The military weakness of the Southern Song dynasty has put it in a very unfavorable light in the eyes of the Chinese today, and they are quick to forget the glorious achievements of this period. It is during this time that the center of gravity of China’s economy and culture completed its shift from North to South. What Eurasia witnessed during the 12th and 13th centuries was the economic and cultural flourishing of the Southern Song dynasty.

Even the destructions that accompanied the dynastic shift from the Song to the Yuan did not stop such dynamics. With the help of new historical factors, this flourishing continued during the latter period of the Yuan dynasty. And Chinese civilization flourished again from the late Ming dynasty on, overcoming the troubles associated with the change from the Ming to the Qing dynasty, till the middle of the Qing era.

However, when evoking the shift of Chinese civilization from North to South, our geographical and historical understanding is still limited to the eastern regions. Here, let me introduce a well-known frontier that characterizes the distribution of Chinese population. On the Chinese map draw a line going from the extremity of the North East to the one of the South West, from the middle of Heilongjiang province (city of Heihe) to the middle of Yunnan province (county of Tengchong), and this line will divide the present territory of China into approximately two equal parts, one on the East and the other on the West. Still thirty to forty years ago, the proportion of the population living on the Western part (54 percent of the total territory) was around 10 percent – which means that 90 percent of the Chinese population was living on the 46 percent of the territory that forms the eastern part.

What the drawing of the Heihe-Tengchong line suggests to us goes beyond the mere repartition of the population. When you add to the map the ethnic repartition of the population it is not difficult to see that, on the East (except for some agrarian ethnic minorities such as the Zhuang, the Dong and the Tai) the immense majority of the population is Han. So, such a line can also be considered as a line of separation between the Han ethnic group and the territories of other ethnic groups. But what makes the Han population settle and distribute itself within this geographical area?

What we must notice is that such a line also roughly corresponds to a division of the territory where yearly rain fall stands between 200 and 400 millimeters. And, in ancient conditions, such a division is also the one that allows respectively for agrarian and pastoral activities.

Therefore, with the exception of the central plains where additional considerations should be brought in, this line already divides from ancient time agrarian territories from the world of West China. Migrating Han population were not staying within this lien for no reason. Success and limitations of the expansion of Chinese civilization were intrinsically linked to its agrarian characteristics.

During the course of Chinese history, central powers emanating and developing from Han civilization have determined several times the extent of the political territory of non Han-speaking populations. During the Tang, the Song and the Ming dynasties, the central power  stabilized the territory of non Han populations, making it enter into the map of the country, using three successive methods, first “subaltern prefectures’, then “indigenous chiefs’ and finally  “assimilation” (i.e. substituting indigenous chiefs with Han dignitaries).

And this policy of assimilation was meant to raise the percentage of Han population in these areas. But in the West of the Heilongjiang-Yunnan line this was very hard to achieve. The successive dynasties could not really attain durable success in controlling these areas.

During the Song and Ming dynasties, we do not find a ministry or organization effectively in charge of the administration of these territories. The integration of the West into the territory controlled by the central power originating from the central plains has been a task mainly accomplished by dynasties originating from non Han-speaking populations. This achievement itself testifies to the indispensable contribution made by ethnic minorities in the course of Chinese history. Let us now say a few words more about this question.

We just spoke about the Southward migration of Chinese economy and culture. What deserves attention is that, about the same time, the political center of China moved on a line going from Xi’an to Loyang to Kaifeng till today’s Beijing. What was the reason for this?

During the last millennium, today’s Beijing was chosen as a capital by the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, three of them being founded by Non-Han populations. For the Han, the plains of the North and the forests of the North-East were simply a line of defense of their agrarian societies. Not so for non-Han rulers. For these rulers with a very specific cultural background, these regions were the depository of their cultural origins and identity, and also where human resources of the same ethnic origin could be found, hence the most important meaning that these regions had for them.

Because these rulers’ concern for the land of their ancestors and of the necessity for them to preserve the stability of the agrarian land of the Han population, they had to move the capital northward, in a zone still deemed acceptable by the Han population. During the time of the Ming dynasty the transfer of the capital to Beijing was somehow due to circumstances, as the military and economic bases of the Emperor Yongle were gathered in the North and he himself was strongly influenced by the Northern culture, but looked at from a broader historical perspective, this move was taking place within a long-term trend.

In the perspective of the central powers emerged and developed within the framework of Han civilization, making the non-Han areas their “frontiers” meant to make “hanization” their most important policy objective, which meant unifying measurements, written signs and behaviors, without any exception.

  What is interesting is that the shift of the Jin, Yuan and Qing dynasties from the status of “marches of the Empire” to the one of “Empire of the marches” did not result in a simplistic reversal of the relationship between the original “political center” and the “periphery.” Thanks to high political wisdom and art, the “Empire of the marches” resulted in a truly diverse territorial organization. Only thanks to such diversity could the “periphery” be on equal footing with Han territory, and even gain more importance. The languages spoken by officials of times past were not limited to spoken and written Mandarin but, by law, were including several others.

According to what precedes, we may be able to take one millennium for one given historical period, and divide the three last millennia of Chinese political, economic and cultural evolutions in an extremely rough fashion:

In the millennium preceding the Common Era, North China establishes itself as the core territory of China’s economy and culture. The rulers who gathered centralized powers into their hands in these areas started to spread the influence of Chinese civilization towards the new frontier areas under their control.

During the first millennium of the Common Era, the flourishing Chinese civilization achieved a shift from North to South and, on a more and more rapid rhythm, activated the economic and cultural progresses of East China. The efforts of the central powers for making the West of China enter into their sphere were important but the results were quite limited.

During the second millennium, the South overcame the North, the historical shift towards the South was completed. The West and then the North West were progressively integrated into the territorial structure controlled by the central power.

History is a master of wisdom. When using a historical perspective for evaluating the present drive for opening and developing the West, what useful lessons can we draw?

From the course of evolutions during the last three millennia, we can know very clearly that we need to reduce the economic, cultural and social gaps between the development of the East and the West so as to accomplish the historical task inherited from the past to make the West a more and more integral part of a China united in the diversity of its nationalities.

This sense of history is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for nurturing the sense of duty of every Chinese when it comes to prioritize and implement the task of opening and developing the West.

From another perspective, relying on the testimonies of human activities of the three or four last millennia, the differences between East and West in natural and cultural conditions teach us an all-important lesson: today’s opening and development of the West cannot and absolutely should not reproduce the model and strategies that characterized the shift from the North to the South – including the migratory flux for opening new territories, the prevalence of agrarian economy as developmental model, the overall hanization of opened territories, and so on.

During the last thirty years, the policies followed in East and West China of letting forests, pastures and wild fields take over some cultivated land show that what we have learned already has helped us to make necessary adjustments. However, since the Han account for the overwhelming majority of China’s population, and especially in the Han developed regions of the East, most people do not have any experience nor any feeling about the degrading ecological condition of the West or about the basic fact that China is a nation composed of a variety of nationalities.

From the earlier stages of modernization, the traditional model of development of the South which in history was a tremendous success of the Han civilization has brought with it a reverence for large-scale industrialization (with the smoke and the roaring engines that go with it), with a kind of romantic complex expressed in sentences such as “a man’s resolve can overcome fate” or “calling the mountain to make room for roads and ordering the river’s water to submit.” This model is still silently influencing the way we are looking at West China’s development and acting accordingly. Should we not be extremely vigilant in this respect?

The difference from the conditions that preceded the shift of the Chinese civilization towards the South is that today’s West China has produced in the course of its history a multiplicity of cultures possessing their own achievements. Such is the case of the Tibetan people having crafted the Tufan culture and its own Buddhist tradition, the encounter of the Gandhara and Han cultures in the southern part of Xinjiang on the Silk Road and the historical testimonies of Indo-European peoples living there, the specific Islamic culture of the Uighurs in the oasis of Xinjiang, the nomad culture of the highlands of West Mongolia, and so on.

From a cultural viewpoint, the duty of opening and developing the West means to accelerate the transition that each of these minorities’ culture faces when confronting modernity, and is certainly not to impose a cultural “model’, be it endogenous or exogenous, on the whole of these areas.

While the process of modernization makes this world become a “global village”, it does not mean nor does it imply that it should abolish the multiple differences and cultural specificities that exist among groups and territories. When looking at the development of the West from this perspective, I think that two points need to be stressed:

First of all, following what my teacher, professor Han Rulin used to say, the Chinese civilization has not been shaped only by Han culture. Each non Han culture of the West, including the one of the Hui who are already speaking only Chinese, is an inalienable constitutive part of Chinese civilization, each maintains the health and equilibrium of the “ecology” of Chinese culture, and each contributes to maintain the precious resources that nurture its splendid life. This point cannot be overstressed.

Second of all, the characteristics of West China’s cultures essentially reflect the variety, richness and complexity of these areas’ nationalities and religions. At the present stage, when speaking about the West’s development, attention is focused on the way to develop the economy, which is of course understandable.

However, the problem of Western China is not only one of economic development. Using a larger perspective, when confronting this problem in the 21st century – when confronting the next stage of the problem should I say - Chinese people might very well have to focus on how to deepen institutional solutions for problems linked to nationalities and religious development. China is one nation with many nationalities, and is developing in very special historical conditions, be it on the national or international level.

Loving the unity and territorial integrity of this nation composed of various nationalities as we love the pupil of our eye does not mean that we make “unity” an uncritically accepted “grand tale”. We need to enter into a larger perspective, a deeper humanist concern, a more diverse understanding and sense of empathy so as to nurture more harmony among the ethnic groups, to unite in happiness as in sorrow, and to foster a political and cultural environment based on union of hearts and virtue.

Before concluding, I would like to mention two famous prime ministers of the Tang dynasty, Fang Xuanling and Du Ruhui. The 11th century historian Song Qi speaks of the two by saying that after the period of troubles that accompanied the succession between the Sui and the Tang dynasties they were able to enforce right principles and to regulate the State and that their influence lasted for several hundreds of years.

Although they achieved such a task, they did not try to elevate themselves or leave any trace of extraordinary action. Song Qi praises the sense of public good shown by these two men, saying that they had not tried to exalt their names and become famous.

Today, the historical task of opening and developing West China requires the contribution of all people of good will. Maybe the ones who participate in this task will not be included in historical records, but this does not matter. We are not trying to exalt our own names. The most important is that, through the efforts of all of us, China’s West may have a beautiful future, filled with hope. Such is the objective that inspires us.

Thank you.


[1] The Yongjia era corresponds here to the reign of the Emperor Huai Di (306-311).

[2] Jingkang era: reign of the Emperor Qin Zong of the northern Song dynasty (1126-1127).


Thursday, 24 May 2007 09:15

How Culture Transcends Politics

First of all, starting from the position I am holding in Hong Kong since a few years, I ask myself: what do Hong Kong people see in Taiwan, and what attracts them there?
They come to see the cultural values of this place, from Eslite bookstore to small eateries in the mountains, puppet shows of the Huang family, aboriginal people’s songs and craftsmanship, the Hakkas’ flower festival, inns… this is the Taiwan that deserves to be appreciated.
Especially the night life, the night markets of Taiwan attract a lot of Hong Kong people who come to Taiwan for the evening markets of Shilin and Liuhe, the colorful night life and riverside coffee shops of Kaohsiung…

Seen at a first glance, the so-called cultural values seem to be an abstraction, Once they are located in a well-oriented space, most characteristics however find their respective position.。For example say, if “creativity” and ’ “pluralism” (including democracy and the protection of the weakest among us) are considered as two axis, the Taiwan characteristic of discussing, debating that goes within all cultural activities appears out naturally : the Huang family puppet show originates from a variety of cultural currents, showing Taiwan’s pluralism, elasticity and capacity of absorption.
Same thing for the night market with the heterogeneity of its flavors and the plurality of its manifestations.
The experience of the night market life echoes Richard Florida ‘s “The Rise of the Creative Class” (2002) on the characteristics that most awakens the creative mind .

How the stranger sees us is one thing, the other side of the mirror is how we consider ourselves. Considering oneself allows one to go beyond external representations and false pretence. For instance, the idea of “the human rights originating from one’s talent “ originally opposes “the divine right of kings” and the reflection on what “talents” entails has been developed through the Enlightenment. Creativity is not a characteristic of a given place, Margaret Boden in “The creative mind” shows that such mind can indeed improve through practicing. By being conscious that we are a people filled with creativity, we naturally reinforce our creative power.
The founding spirit of every country starts a process of self-reinforcement.
For example say, after the French Revolution, the red blue white three color flag was not an ethnic symbol but was attached to the universal ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The U.S.A., by becoming a melting pot was fulfilling the democratic ideal of its founders and the ideal of human rights enshrined in the Constitution. Also refer to Turner’s “The Significance of Frontier in American History” when it comes to the Western spirit , a mythology that can be adulterated, but, even in its political uses and abuses of today, refers to a founding spirit - and Americans still keep up a dream of youth, progress and heroism.

As to us, Taiwanese, where are the cultural values that define our identity?
If “creativity” and “pluralism” are indeed our cultural characteristics, they also might become a topic for tourism promotion. Becoming “the island of creativity” , “pluralist island”, whether it refers to the experience of going to Eslite, coffee house experience , night market experience (Florida says: for the creative man, “Experience” replaces goods and service as the main consumption item), and recognizing this characteristics as our assets will bring in people from the whole world.
In other words, this is a self-reinforcing characteristic that can be put into practice at the level of community life. Building consensually on these values, accumulating tacitly a certain lifestyle, we, Taiwanese, who are extremely flexible, are able to design and mould the figure of our own culture as perceived everywhere.

In fact, this will allow Taiwanese to display self-confidence too, linking “the island of creativity” with the creativity displayed in the world as a whole. This is a direction full of potentialities as it will allow us to go beyond the stranger’s idea of a Taiwan flowing with money, and also to go against an image built on “hardware” for enhancing the Taiwanese “software’ provided by creativity and pluralism.

Let us turn back to the way Hong Kong, Taipei and Kaohsiung are respectively underestimating each other. Hong Kong is always treating Taiwan with contempt for its messy politics, Taiwan sees Hong Kong as a bird cage, while Hong Kong people, with a functionalist approach, will find the narrow alleys or the humble airport building too unattractive.
Our “island of creativity and pluralism” is actually hurt by over-politicization and by the primacy given to money as a value and means of decision:
Narrow political vocabulary
Vulgarized Confucianism used to consider the relationships between political decision makers and the people on the Father-Son relationships model
In modern time, the willingness to counterbalance the ancient attitude and establish democracy has led to overstate the influence of politics.
Money oriented value system
Commercial values are predominant, standardizing not only products but also demands. “The Disappearance of Childhood” by Neil. Postman was already saying, many years ago , that standardization and brands were threatening the experience of childhood, making the child use the vocabulary of adults and losing creativity.
In our Chinese tradition, the great mission of any individual was to continue the family lineage, and the sense of insecurity created by the possibility of the lineage not continuing was fostering the accumulation of wealth. So far, what Taiwan worries about most is the decline of the economic figures and of having no money. But is it that kind of accumulation that will earn us the respect of the world inhabitants?

If Taiwan indeed nurtures a colorful cultural scenery, then, borrowing the expression of Benoit Vermander, though it cannot become a “normal (ordinary) member”, it might transform itself into a “outstanding (extraordinary) member” of the international community ----This kind of self- understanding is actually what Taiwan can share with other people, and the personnel stationed abroad of Taiwan, could help to popularize and introduce this specific culture. A bolder proposal (forgive me for I am also a creator) would be to merge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism bureau…
Taking again as an example Hong Kong which I comparatively know very well, in November 2006, our centre made great efforts to introduce a “Taiwan month”, overcoming the doubts raised about Taiwan politics, mobilizing Taiwan residents and entrepreneurs, surmounting political divisions, during that month, in the Hong Kong media, the “November-Taiwan month” formula was spread all around, while exchanges naturally developed from heart to heart, and it is worth mentioning that on the ground, the course of arrangement was by itself a creation process, with fundraising being more and more provided by Hong Kong charities proper, and the “creativity of Taiwan” being more and more connected to concerns about Hong Kong local society.
In a word, when looking at Taiwan from the cultural viewpoint, its peculiar vision is displayed by the accumulation of experiences in civil society and democratic politics for so many years now. Think about it: if one day, on the signboards on the buses, train station, performance halls on the each metropolis of the world is on display the creative culture of Taiwan, maybe Taiwan does not need to be worried by the number of its diplomatic allies! Using the cultural card this way, letting Taiwan go to the world, letting the world see Taiwan, this might be the best present to offer to this “island of creativity.”
And going one step further, if in each place in the world cultural pluralism and creativity are the basis for international relations, then, hostility in the world will be reduced, goodwill increased, and cooperation too will increase naturally, reaching the objective of ensuring “world governance”…

Monday, 21 May 2007 00:00

Taiwan and Europe: Past Interactions and Future Pursuits

Much of what we understand of the world, and what we know about the world, derives primarily from what we learn at school. In Taiwan we have known from a very young age about humanity’s four great ancient civilizations, Egyptian, Mesopotamia, Indian and Chinese respectively; later on we also learnt about the development and expansion of the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and finally the rise of Europe during the Renaissance. Intense creative activity began in Italy, and it soon spread all over Europe, progressively leading to an unprecedented full scale reform. Europe had stepped on to a well-paved road for development. From then its strength and power dominated the world for several hundred years. Europeans invaded the whole of Asia, coercing many to submit to their power, changing the collective lives and destinies of Asians, the effects of which went far and deep.
Our knowledge of Europe for the most part comes from fact. However it is difficult not to mix in an element of imagination. In my opinion, and I believe that many would share my thoughts on this; in terms of technology Europeans are without question superior, with their weapons, power and wealth, they exceed every country. Europeans utilized technology and developed powerful military force. It colonized and controlled vast areas of the world, and coerced many countries into abiding by their laws, and accepting their political hegemony and cultural influence that would be imposed on them and would change their lives.
The very first contact between Taiwan and Europe occurred during what can be referred to as an important stage in the history of mankind; the age of discovery. In 1544 a Portuguese fleet on their voyage east-ward along the seas of South-Eastern China, passed through the Taiwan Straits and arrived in Taiwan. As they looked into the distant vast emerald green ranges of Chong Mountain, they shouted ‘Ilha Formosa’. Not long after one after the other, the Spanish, Dutch landed on these shores and established political power, later British and French troops also arrived, and with trading and armed forces came European missionaries, explorers, naturalists. Western buildings, religion also began to appear in Taiwan. Furthermore Europeans began to recognize that Taiwan had its own distinctive Taiwanese local customs and practices.
Taiwan is unlike other Asian regions in that it has not been subjected to any direct long tern Western colonialist or Imperialist rule. It was unable however to escape 50 years of Japanese Colonialist rule. The Meiji Restoration saw the end of the Shoguanate Era, the Japenese not only learnt how to build boats and guns from Europe, they also followed Europe’s example in bringing together a democratic system, legislative politics. The Japanese even gathered information about European city infrastructure, art culture and many other areas of new knowledge and values.
The 50 years of Japanese rule thoroughly transformed Taiwan and left a profound impact on the lives of Taiwanese people. In other words, in many respects we adopted much of Western Culture through the Japanese, much like how the Japanese adopted Western culture. My father was a painter, he passed the entrance exam to the Tokyo Art School, and was greatly inspired by the Impressionist school; he loved Western art, especially French paintings and French art. I was greatly influenced by my father from quite a young age, and because of this I began to understand another important dimension of European art; artistic creation, in a more narrow sense of the term; culture.
The impact of European culture on people was immense. People glorified it, worshipped it. European culture drew people to want to learn more, to gain more knowledge. We are all too familiar with famous European literary works; these have even found their way into Chinese translated versions. Even works of famous European artists have also had their albums published in Chinese (although the quality of the print are not all good); I myself am deeply in love with European classical music and have even done an intensive study in this field. We in many respects want to pursue European popular fashion; we feel that it is an ultimate expression of elegance, luxury, modernism. This kind of mainstream culture dominates our tastes, and often just lap it all up.
Whether it was direct or indirect contact, interaction between Taiwan and Europe goes back three to four hundred years. After the Second World War, the Kuomintang government came to Taiwan and the Republic of China firmly took root and exercised its political power on Taiwanese soil. In 1964 France began to establish diplomatic relations with Mainland China, this created a domino effect and shortly after led to all other European countries ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, leaving Taiwan to turn to the United States. And thus a barrier gradually formed between Taiwan and Europe. Under the ‘Kiss America’ policy American culture began to enter Taiwan in a big way. What is more, faced with the plight of international isolation most young Taiwanese students choose to go to America to study; thus only a very small amount of students would choose to go to Europe for higher education.
During the Age of Discovery Taiwan was in fact an important East-Asian stronghold. The mutual surge of interaction and exchange between its own internal culture and external foreign cultures created rich and diversified cultural developments. This was originally a big turning point in the making of ‘New Taiwanese culture’, however the realities at the international stage combined with the autocratic rule of the Kuomintang party greatly influenced any opportunity for a second dialogue between Taiwan and Europe. Another factor being to do with the central principles of Confucius Orthodoxy, inhibiting local native language and culture, making the younger generation uncertain of their own homeland. In fact their knowledge and understanding of the relations between Taiwan and the world can be said to me extremely limited.
Under my father’s influence, when I was 16 years old I chose to go to Europe to study music. I passed the entrance exam into a music school in Paris, France. In the place where my idols, great musicians Debussy and Hector Berlioz had resided and learnt, I realized my childhood musical dream. However this so-called musical fantasy was quite unexpectedly crushed on my first day in class by a mean teacher.
The majority of the students in my class were French. I still remember when my teacher asked me about my knowledge of music from where I come from, and even asked me to sing a few songs. I was stunned; apart from a catchy Taiwanese traditional folk ballad ‘look forward to love’ I couldn’t think of anything else, my mind had gone completely blank. That was a sharp warning for me. I gradually came to realize that learning things from other people no matter how outstanding they, you can never win. I had no way of being like any of the other students as I had no knowledge of my own country, my motherland Taiwan and therefore felt extremely ashamed. This experience made me go back to Taiwan in 1975, and it led to a process of Taiwanese cultural soul searching.
Several years later, due to a job posting and because of my experiences whilst being in Europe, I was able to look at Europe in quite a different light, one outside the sphere of culture and arts. In the past, people had it in their heads this idea of a great, glorious Europe. This later changed, with the rise of America. People began to have quite a dim, bleak impression of Europe. In its endeavor to integrate, the EU once again wanted to demonstrate on the world stage its endeavors to create civilization, and this time Taiwan noticed.
By the 25th of March 2007, the European Union had been established for 50 years. In the 50 years Europe has developed from a common market to a European organization made up of different countries seeking similar goals, with a desire to realize common aspirations of the European people; freedom, peace and anti-war. At the same time the organization gradually became a common entity for the development of politics, economics, defense and environmental protection. After consolidation of the so-called ‘inflexible debate’ partnership, in the recent 20 years Taiwan has once again slowly drifted into educational, cultural ‘soft power’ policies. By 1992 the Maastricht Treaty fully endowed the EU with many new powers, one of which included ‘cultural policies.’ In fact a ‘cultural’ law (Article 128) was devised and became a basis for countries within the European Community to recognize and follow as a common goal in all aspects of arts and cultural collaboration.
Consequently we can regard the European Cultural partnership in terms of molding a ‘European label,’ Firstly, an annual proposal must be firmly established. Since 1985 the European Council have held ‘European Capital of Culture’ event. That is to say every year one or two cities with cultural touristic appeal is chosen, and performances, exhibitions and other cultural activities are held in that city. Later the EU supported and took over coordinating the entire campaign, letting these cities come to life through a colorful array of cultural and artistic activities, and as far as annual traveling goes, it became the best selling point.
Secondly, in the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, Article 128 was revised and re-documented as Article 151. It emphasized the role of the EU in supporting all activities that are based on respecting and promoting European culture, this is also a legal obligation. From then on ‘culture’ became a very important issue for the EU. According to Article 151, a series of guiding cultural principals and schemes were initiated, including the 1996-1999 ‘kaleodoscope’ which was aimed at encouraging artistic and cultural creation and teamwork, the 1997-1999 ‘Ariane’ plan of book publishing and reading translations, and finally in 1997-1999 the ‘Raphael’ plan of initiating policies related to world heritage and European distinctiveness. All these activities achieved the peak of its objective by the Millennium, that is the ‘2000 Culture’ plan to reach a budget of 230 million Euros within 7 years. It provided sponsorship funds to all related cultural projects, and through advocating the sharing of different cultures, build and construct a big common cultural circle.
In the construction and convergence of European space for higher education, the so called ‘Bologna declaration’ received the most attention and was also the most ambitious. In 1998, Heads of educational departments in France, Germany, Britain, and Italy signed the Paris University declaration and decided on ‘academic diploma standardization’; and then in 1999 the heads of educational departments in 29 countries announced the Bologna declaration and established a common consensus for the establishment of a ‘European space for higher education.’ Later in 2000 in light of the challenges brought on by globalization and the intellectual society, EU heads of state, collectively announced in a summit their hope of completing the ideas set out in the Bologna declaration by 2010. Hence in 2001 leaders of the EU educational world discussed ways in which to initiate these plans. Not long after, heads of educational departments at the Jan Assembly made several resolutions, these include; carrying out and integrating a higher level education system, having mutual acknowledgement of each country’s academic diploma and placing special emphasis on the importance of a ‘European label’ and European dimension - in the hopes that the curriculum, and the culture on school campus can preserve and carry forward each country’s educational and strong points in learning, further demonstrating an overall distinctive nature of European culture.
This year March 2007, EU’s latest ‘Cultural plan: 2007-2013’ has already formally been put into action, with the slogan ‘Leap over boundaries, connect cultures’. At the same time it appropriated a budget of 400 million Euros, allowing European citizens to unite unanimously in the concept of Europeanism, and identify in each others cultures, and sharing the fruits of development.
The EU, in setting into motion cultural activities, most recently the inauguration of the Musee du Quai Branly in June 2006, has left a deep impression on many Taiwanese people, in other words ‘the importance and value of respecting and carrying forward diversified culture.’ There is in fact no good or bad culture, I used to say, when faced with cultural matters or related constructions one must use ‘addition’ and ‘multiplication’ to think. It is only in this way that the ‘soil of culture’ is not left barren and that ‘culture’s flower’ can bloom and flourish.
At the time when Taiwan ended the worlds longest martial law rule in 1987 (it lasted for 38 years), it still carried on its ‘Nativist movement’ of the 70s and the democratic human rights movement of the 80s, and did so to its full capacity. The development of Taiwanese society and Taiwanese culture created a huge upheaval; it was as if Taiwan wanted to let it all out, express all kinds of emotions and feelings concerning the past. This of course led to many conflicts, but I sincerely believe that if we have the right direction and a grasp of our core values then Taiwan can attain a positive leading force to guide it.
In terms of Cultural development 2000 was an important year for Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive party won the people’s support and ended Kuomintang’s 50 year long rule. Through this event the value and importance of cultural diversification became apparent. The four main ethnic groups began to have more equal treatment. In comparison Europe, in the recent ten years or so, has been in the process of seeking to share culture diversity while identifying with an integration process, I can see that Taiwan is also moving in a similar direction and I can’t help but feel very excited about this.
Many of those who are passionate and love this country have gone and unearthed, sorted out and rebuilt many things that were valued in the past. The government has also in terms of native language education, in national education, in developing ethnicity, and cultural activities done much for making up for all the sorrow and pain the former party had caused. Take my post as head of the Commission of Cultural Affairs of the Executive Yuan as an example. During my term there I supervised the establishment of approximately 200 local cultural centers in every county. The publications included history, literature, plays, fine arts, music etc. there were up to about 600 different kinds of historical and biographical books. These and building up Taiwan’s National literary centre, traditional art centers and Taiwanese historical museums allow Taiwan’s valuable cultural, historical relics, and archives to never again be lost, as we can preserve, protect and study them.
I myself feel lucky that I have the opportunity to go from a past where any discussion of ‘Taiwan’ was taboo, to the present where ‘studying Taiwan’ has now become a popular and international topic of discussion.
In the 80s, local historians and historical researchers in the scholarly and academic world set out to reorganize and establish a foundation for ‘Taiwanese research.’ Afterwards; elementary schools began to add native language education and native teaching materials on to the curriculum. Up until today, higher level education organizations have about 17 departments linked with the study and research of Taiwan. And I myself in 1995 wrote and published ‘100 years of Taiwanese music 1985-1995” and in 2004 after leaving a strenuous job as head of the cultural division I began to develop the discussion on “Diamond Taiwan”:
Taiwan only takes up 0.023% of the earth’s total area; despite this however 10 percent of the world’s distinct and diverse species reside on the island. Its unique geographic location creates wonderful natural landscapes and ecosystems. Wildlife habitat and climatic zone is first rate. Apart from that, Taiwan is home to Austronesian aborigines, who have developed their own Taiwanese mountain and sea cultures, in the past 100 years, due to a few accidental occurrences in history, they began to develop predominantly Chinese based cultural characteristics, and a blend of Western and Japanese features is also evident. This all makes Taiwan very much like a diamond, small yet beautiful and sparkly, an island not to be overlooked.
At the end of May 2006, the national cultural association organized a ‘the whole world loves Taiwan’ historical international seminar. Over 3 hundred years ago Taiwan was Holland’s colony, now her representative sits amongst other international scholars as an honored guest to share amongst themselves the ‘study of Taiwan.’
I have a French friend, she is quite an ardent student of Taiwanese anthropology, she came to Taiwan 20 years ago under the guidance of her professor. She spent years and months on a field study about the belief and social organizations and practices amongst people of Southern Taiwan. She told me things about Taiwanese religion, customs and ceremonies that I had no idea about; this made me feel deeply ashamed, and I was determined to understand and learn more about my birthplace The National Cultural organization published ‘new life water magazine’, in Jan and March 2007 also saw the publication of ’10 major Taiwanese folk rituals’ ’The 10 major rituals of Taiwanese Aborigines” This enabled me to look at Taiwan in a different light and allowed me to appreciate, understand the beauty and allure of Taiwanese culture on a more deeper and meaningful level.
Due to political imprisonment in the past I was unable to complete compulsory classroom ‘Taiwanese credits.’ But these past several years, private and public efforts have given me a good opportunity to make up for the loss I had incurred, and have also made me value and cherish Taiwan even more - a rare gem, a country exceptionally rich in natural resources, and a diverse cultural history.
To start off with I had said that Europe’s contributions to the development and rise of civilization is exceptional, from philosophy, literature, the arts, science and even the influence of most recent history’s democratic stream of thought. Europe has always been the vanguard in writing history. The EU had exerted greater efforts in recognizing and valuing the importance of cultural diversification, and has even created a new magnificent vision and plan of action, in the attempt to once again head start a new era of convergence of European values.
However at the same time, I deeply believe that Europeans and their knowledge and understanding of Asia, especially Taiwan is not enough. When I was young, studying in France, many classmates the same age as me told me, when they were in middle school they had never studied anything to do with Asian history, Asian thought, religion, art or ancient civilizations, it was simply not a part of their curriculum. If they wanted to know about it they had to find a way to get a hold of information. We of course know that over a half of the world’s population live in Asia, The fact that teaching materials in European schools neglect to mention Asia, means that at the time the education bureau were neglecting any dialogue between other civilizations and cultures. What is more in October 2004, I followed the Taiwanese foreign office to Britain, France, Germany, Belgium to call on governments and congressmen, and discovered that a lot of people have a very hazy impression and lack of understanding about Taiwan. But I also found that if we use the subject of culture and art to initiate communication and sharing, we would very quickly draw in the distance between us, and perhaps at the same time leave an impression and an interest in Taiwan.
When Europe, through education and culture reached a common understanding, established a sense of cohesiveness and identification amongst its citizens, Miles away in Taiwan; the world’s tiniest island, after experiencing political and economic reform was also seeking similar goals, and in the major process of integrating a national identity, at the same time it was also utilizing its rich cultural and artistic treasures to internally mould a common vision amongst its people, and externally to open up to the world.
In 2008 Taiwan will once again be electing a new president; I would like to use this opportunity to sincerely express my expectations and deepest hope that Taiwan’s future development will place culture as its core value and the importance of education as its main project. Through these elements a new vision of Taiwan can be created. In this respect we must follow in America’s footsteps and establish our own developments. At the same time we must pay attention to and observe the methods and practices that the EU take, and examine carefully not only their strategies but the philosophical background and thought, the logic and procedures that are needed to carry through their major projects, and what is more recognize its everlasting values.
I also deeply hope and wish that Taiwan, which has already set an example amongst the world’s overseas Chinese societies in its ability for democratic reform and cultural coherence, will be able to have more active and substantial interactions with Europe and generate greater accomplishments on the world’s cultural atlas!
Speech pronounced at the International Conference on "Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development, a Dialogue between Taiwan and Europe", Kaohsiung, 25, 26 may 2007

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