Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taiwan tries to up the ante in battle for trade

The Russian government is trying to develop relations with Taiwan in a way that does not undermine Russian pledges of exclusive political recognition for the People's Republic of China. But the business-without-politics


Formula which the Russians have proposed isn't enough to satisfy the Taiwanese.

Last week they tried to up the ante. In Taipei Chiang Ping-Dun, deputy economics minister in the Taiwan government, was reported to have announced that he will lead a trade delegation to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in August.

He told the Chinese press he would be negotiating agreements to establish an exchange of trade offices with the three republics. "After they are set up", Chiang said, "they can handle problems concerning the loan and promote trade contacts between enterprises".

In Moscow this week Russian officials, as well as Asian diplomats, denied all knowledge of the Taiwan delegation visit.

A senior official of the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry said in an interview that he knew nothing of Chiang's statement, adding "there is no official information" about his proposed visit. He disclosed that his ministry was considering sending an official delegation to Taiwan shortly.

He said an invitation had been extended by the Taiwanese to the deputy minister with responsibility for Asia, Vladimir Shibayev, and to the director of the Asia department, Viktor Koptyevsky.

"We are just considering at what level and when this might take place, but there is not yet any decision", the official said.

Russian sources said the invitation for their visit to Taiwan was from a non-government trade organization in Taiwan, and not from the Taiwan government.

The implication of the Russian ministry denial is that Chiang's visit to Russia may take place, but under private trade auspices, rather than with official sanction.

The reason for the diplomatic camouflage is that as much as the Russians would like to trade with Taiwan, they do not want to offend the People's Republic of China. Russian trade with China, including exports of high-value military goods, is expanding, and President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to visit Beijing later this year.

"Taking into account our relations with China", a senior official of the Russian government said in an interview early in the year, "an official visit from Taiwan is impossible".

The spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry has said, "Russia regards Taiwan as an integral part of China and the government of the People's Republic of China as the only lawful representative of China".

The government's sensitivity on this issue has sharpened because of criticism from the growing bloc of Russian nationalists in parliament.

They view the overtures which the government has received and extended to Taipei as part of a new "pro-Western" orientation in the Pacific region which they adamantly oppose.

The nationalist criticism also has focused on the government's willingness to make territorial concessions to Japan in exchange for financial aid.

Taiwan has announced several financial inducements for a change in Moscow's attitude. The Chinese republic has promised 100, 000 tons of rice to be divided between Russia and Ukraine, and invited applications for low-interest loans from an Overseas Economic Cooperation Development Fund, said to be worth $1. 2 billion

Although not a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Taiwan has offered $10 million for the bank to disburse in technical assistance to Russia and other East European states.

Belarus is the first former Soviet republic which is reported to have been offered a loan from the Taiwan fund. A Taipei press report last week indicated a credit of $8 million to finance a telecommunications system. Chiang did not confirm the details.

In January of this year, Taiwan's vice-minister of foreign affairs, John Chiang, was in Moscow and Kiev at the invitation of Russian textile industry interests. This visit followed a trip to Taipei late last year by the then Soviet minister in charge of light industry, Lyudmila Davletova.

In May a Russian delegation visited Taipei. It was headed by Professor Ivan Ivanov, a former Soviet official

who occupies no Russian government post but whose mission was sanctioned by the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry.

The delegation also included representatives of regional interests including Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, and a Moscow enterprise known as Etsetra which has close ties with the Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

The first vice-minister of the Russian Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, Sergei Glazev, said that reports of Russian arms dealings with Taiwan are untrue.

Discussions on the sale of Russian aviation goods to Beijing have been underway for months, and there are unconfirmed reports that a sale agreement has been reached for Sukhoi aircraft.