Monday, July 15, 2024
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HomeOpinionCommentaryBousquet’s Bulletin: Head-to-Head and Toe-to-Toe with a fossilized Indochinese ping-pong, dollar-diplomacy species

Bousquet’s Bulletin: Head-to-Head and Toe-to-Toe with a fossilized Indochinese ping-pong, dollar-diplomacy species

By Earl Bousquet

My good friend Denys Springer used to know how to reply to what I write without mentioning my name, but these days he’s allowing his slip to show.

We’ve always gone Toe-to-Toe on China and Taiwan, particularly as (past) co-hosts on Calabash TV’s popular ‘Head-to-Head’ program.

We’d bash words and heads so badly that once I played a pen right up to his face like I wanted to ‘jook-out his eye’ (as we would say locally).

It looked so bad that night; the then Taiwan ambassador – the very next morning – hurriedly invited Denys and I to ‘peacemaking’ lunch at a popular Rodney Bay restaurant.

Denys and I arranged to meet ahead of time, for another of our usual testy but enjoyable laughs and chats about local politics – and planning the hot topic for our next show.

At Midday-sharp, the Taiwanese delegation arrived. Denys and I, already seated at a light-house-type vantage point, watched as they inquired whether we’d arrived, the young lady pointing to us and leading them our way.

Pleasantries over, we moved to the grand table, which (in retrospect) was pre-arranged to allow for a fair level of what we now call social distancing between Denys and I.

But my co-host and I naturally sat tete-a-tete – to finish our chat … The Taiwanese were flabbergasted. Like most other viewers, they actually felt Denys and I were at real war over China and Taiwan. In their eyes, I had actually threatened Denys, ‘Live and Direct’ on national TV. Yet, here were, like kissing cousins.

Not that our hosts were duped – only that they don’t understand that Caribbean islanders belong to a deeper political culture where people can easily avoid war by agreeing to disagree, having to forever, live together as neighbours, no matter what.

Truth be told, the Taiwanese don’t share Denys view that I’m ‘a Chinese agent’, the embassy here having three times arranged official visits by me to Taiwan:

  • I participated in an official ‘Ten-Ten’ ceremony under then Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jieu in 2013;
  • I covered the 2016 presidential election that Madam Tsai Ing-wen won, as part of an international observer group and participated in the first press conference called by the victorious Democratic People’s Party (PPP), with Madam Tsai as leader and chaired current foreign affairs minister Joseph Wu;
  • My most recent visit to Taipei was in 2018, as editor of The VOICE of Saint Lucia as part of an island-wide, week-long tour by a group of selected African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) news editors.

Denys eyes rolled-over-like-never during the official reception the embassy arranged here for Madam Tsai’s 2020 official visit, when I turned up at the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom of the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian Spa and Resort at Pigeon Point in my classic Red-and-Black traditional Chinese ceremonial jacket.

Attending with a certified ‘press pass’ sporting what one of the prominent media lady bosses at my shared table described as ‘an old-time movie camera’, Denys also must have seen when Madam Tsai waved at me across the ballroom, obviously attracted by my signal Fire-Engine-Red attire, after asking the Saint Lucia prime minister who I was.

To cut that mutually sorry part of our long story short, Denys and I parted ways on ‘Head-to-Head’ without burying the hatchet into each other’s heads.

We’ve continued to laugh at the rest of the world every time we meet — and every now-and-then he decides to not let pass something I wrote that infuriated him, or which he felt the Taiwanese should have responded to, but either didn’t or refused to – like my recent article [here] suggesting Saint Lucia is not too small to help bridge the COVID gap between Beijing and Taipei – if the political exists to – again – swim against the tide.

But, as I said at the start of this script, Denys petticoat is starting to show so clearly these days that he should probably consider wearing girdles instead.

I mean, now my wannabe-garrulous detractor actually wants to dictate to Taiwan.

Take the following (from his latest salvo intended for my bow): ‘I now say quite categorically to the Taiwanese government that the time has come to stop the pussyfooting in terms of letting China rule the roost, selling their garbage and propaganda, aided and abetted by the paid agents in many countries throughout the Caribbean and the world.

‘And that they too should have their local individuals that will educate citizens of the world in terms of the culture and history of the people of Taiwan – and that Taiwan is not part of China in any form … ’

The phantasm of China is embedded in their psyche

 A clearer job application has never been written by Denys, an ex-British Army ‘Signals Man’ (in other words ‘a British agent’) involved in monitoring ‘Indochina’ after World War II.

Unfortunately, my Cold Warrior friend’s analysis of China-Taiwan ties today is still anchored in anti-communist perspectives that no longer apply to 21st Century politics in the age of the world revolving around what Madam Tsai describes as ‘The internet of things!

The Taiwanese won’t even try to find words to tell him his archaic views are as stale as that which held that China and Taiwan can never agree, as they verily did agree to disagree for eight years (2008-2016) during the reign of Ma Ying-jieu.

Indeed, Ma and Xi shared the longest and most-photographed friendly handshake in world history in Singapore, in 2016.

Denys doesn’t like me to remind him that Beijing and Taipei have more than once demonstrated they can agree not to cross certain red lines – and that they can indeed dance.

And he can also afford to try to advance his thinking a little closer to the mutual agreement by the two sides involved that – There Is Only One China for All Chinese – with the guaranteed assurance it will not cost him his Big Toe.

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