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Taiwan’s ambassador to Eswatini sets record straight on bilateral ties

Taiwan’s new ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini, Jeremy H. S. Liang, set the record straight on bilateral relations in a letter to the editor recently published by the Times of Swaziland, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sept. 20.

“Taiwan is Eswatini’s loyal friend and perfect partner in advancing prosperity and sustainable national development,” Liang said Sept. 12. “It is also a country where freedom and democracy are cherished, as is informed and spirited debate.”

Liang, who assumed his post late last month in the capital Mbabane, was responding to a letter questioning the wisdom of Eswatini’s longstanding ties with Taiwan and urging the people of the landlocked nation in southern Africa to clamor for massive infrastructure projects dangled by China.

“It is true China’s financial promises glitter like gold in the midday sun,” Liang said, adding that at first blush they benefit the people and position the recipients on the fast track to the promised land of high gross domestic product. “But not all that glitters is gold.”

According to Liang, highways, ports and railways built in “partnership” with Chinese firms quickly become bankrupting burdens. “In no time, they are handed back to China and take on a new function as conduits for efficiently exporting a country’s natural resources and importing low-quality goods and cheap labour,” he said.

“There is no question that China’s debt-trap diplomacy, as African, Balkan and South Asian countries have quickly come to discover, is a one-way ticket to poverty and servitude,” Liang said. “It is also a surefire way of surrendering sovereignty forever.”

Liang said the people of Africa are celebrated the world over for casting off the shackles of colonialism. “It would be a tragedy to turn back time for nothing more than the promise of a so-called free lunch.”

Taiwan and Eswatini established official diplomatic ties Sept. 6, 1968. The relationship has since grown through reciprocal high-level visits like President Tsai Ing-wen’s four-day official trip in April and the 17 to date by King Mswati III.

According to the MOFA, Taiwan works closely with Eswatini in areas like agriculture, education, health care, information and communication technology, renewable energy and vocational training.

In June, the two sides signed a broad-based agreement strengthening economic, environmental protection, investment, technical, tourism and trade cooperation. The pact is expected to further enhance the well-being of the people and create mutually beneficial outcomes for both nations, the MOFA said. (JSM-E)