Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) yesterday said that if elected president, he would promote foreign policy aimed at bringing substantial improvements to the nation’s economy, instead of policy aimed at “saving face.”

During his weekly Facebook livestream, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for her “shockingly strong” attitude on diplomatic issues, which he said has yielded laughable results.

Over the past three years, the Tsai administration has lost five diplomatic allies, and rumors suggest that the Solomon Islands could be next, he said.

Meanwhile, seven of the nation’s representative offices abroad have been renamed or downgraded, he said.

Tsai’s foreign policy has led the nation on an “increasingly narrow and dangerous path,” he said.

“Currently, what is more important for Taiwan? Saving face or making substantial improvements?” he asked.

As president, he would promote foreign policy that focuses on trade and brings substantial improvements to the nation, he said.

His foreign policy would consist of three aspects: protecting local businesses, offering international medical assistance and providing a platform for young people, he said.

One of the ways Han would help Taiwanese companies would be to assign diplomats stationed abroad the additional role of being a promoter for Taiwan’s businesses and products, said Dale Jieh (介文汲), Han’s policy adviser and a former diplomat.

There are more than 100 Taiwanese diplomats stationed abroad with the experience, knowledge and connections to promote Taiwan’s products, he said, adding that the government only needs to provide them with more resources and objectives.

In addition to promoting Taiwan’s products, the diplomats could also help bring investors and technologies to Taiwan, Jieh said.

Han would also promote plans to offer assistance to other nations to improve their healthcare infrastructure, he said, adding that Taiwan has a leading healthcare industry.

As president, Han would also provide more support to international volunteer programs and international competitions for young people, Han’s campaign office said.

Han’s diplomatic strategy is in line with the mainstream approach in diplomacy worldwide, Jieh said.

“Foreign policy must be practical and realistic, rather than ideological,” he said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials responded to criticism of the government’s foreign affairs policies after Han’s office said that the “abnormal cross-strait relations” since the DPP assumed power in 2016 were to blame for the arrest of Taiwanese by Chinese authorities.

DPP spokeswoman Hsueh Cheng-yi (薛呈懿) said that cross-strait relations with China “can only be built upon a foundation of democratic values, freedom, due process of law and human rights, to able to protect the lives of Taiwan’s citizens.”

“Han always blames the DPP for problems … in dealing with China. This only highlights Han’s shallow understanding and his own abnormal concepts about the very complicated issues surrounding cross-strait relations,” Hsueh said.

From 2008 to 2016 when the KMT was in power, more than 600 Taiwanese were arrested by the Chinese government, he said.

According to Han’s logic, it could be said that former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) tenure was also a period of abnormal cross-strait relations, Hsueh said.