Tai­wan ne­glected un­fairly in­ter­na­tion­ally

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Betty Chen Source: Sun­day Gleaner

I n this world, there is a coun­try that is a thriv­ing democ­racy with a pop­u­la­tion of 23 mil­lion, ranks 18th or 19th in trade, tops the list among the global tech­nol­ogy pow­er­houses, and is placed 14th in the IMD World Com­pet­i­tive­ness Year­book 2016. How­ever, this coun­try is one of the least recog­nised in the world, is of­ten de­nied ac­cess to most of the in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, and whose ci­ti­zens are of­ten re­jected when try­ing to en­ter the United Na­tions just for a visit. This coun­try is the Repub­lic of China, com­monly known as Tai­wan.

Founded in 1911, the Repub­lic of China (ROC) was the first demo­cratic repub­lic in Asia. Dr Sun Yat-sen led 11 up­ris­ings and fi­nally over­threw the Qing Dy­nasty, end­ing the im­pe­rial rule. Later, as a win­ning coun­try in the Al­lied Forces in WWII, the ROC be­came one of the found­ing mem­bers of the United Na­tions in 1945. How­ever, in the civil war be­tween the na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment, the rul­ing Kuom­intang (KMT), and the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party, the ROC was de­feated, and was forced to re­lo­cate from the Chi­nese main­land to Tai­wan in 1949. Two mil­lion peo­ple moved to Tai­wan to start a new life, and the ROC regime has since then taken root on the is­land of For­mosa.

In 1971, the United Na­tions adopted Gen­eral As­sem­bly Res­o­lu­tion 2758, which stip­u­lated that the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC) was recog­nised as the “the only le­git­i­mate rep­re­sen­ta­tive of China to the United Na­tions”. De­spite the great ef­forts from the ROC gov­ern­ment, its UN rep­re­sen­ta­tion was lost to the PRC. How­ever, the of­fi­cial name of “The Repub­lic of China” still ex­ists in Ar­ti­cle 23 and 110 of the UN Char­ter. Many of the ROC’s diplo­matic al­lies switched diplo­matic recog­ni­tion as a re­sult, and now only 22 coun­tries still main­tains for­mal diplo­matic ties with the ROC, most of which are small is­land na­tions in the South Pa­cific or the Caribbean that rely heav­ily on Tai­wan’s fi­nan­cial aid. Although many coun­tries, such as the US and Ja­pan, have main­tained sub­stan­tive re­la­tions with Tai­wan, for­mal recog­ni­tion is al­most im­pos­si­ble. De­spite the pres­sure from PRC, Tai­wan has found an un­ortho­dox way to par­tic­i­pate in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. Af­ter a few years of hia­tus in its Olympics par­tic­i­pa­tion, the Repub­lic of China was des­ig­nated as “Chi­nese Taipei” by the Nagoya Res­o­lu­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Olympics Com­mit­tee (IOC) in 1979, and the ROC na­tional flag and an­them are not al­lowed at the of­fi­cial events. Odd and am­bigu­ous as the name sounds, it pro­vides a for­mula for Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion. The PRC, how­ever, still sees Tai­wan as a rene­gade prov­ince, and has never given up the thought of tak­ing over Tai­wan.

Since the ROC gov­ern­ment moved to Tai­wan in 1949, the coun­try was un­der the mar­tial law un­til 1987. In 1996, the ROC held the first di­rect pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, so Tai­wan fi­nally en­tered a new phase of democrati­sa­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the US-based think tank Free­dom House, Tai­wan has high lev­els of free­dom and po­lit­i­cal rights. The peo­ple en­joy free­dom of speech, press, as­so­ci­a­tion and re­li­gion. The vi­brant civic so­ci­ety and thriv­ing democ­racy in Tai­wan form a sharp con­trast to its coun­ter­part across the Tai­wan Strait. On top of that, Tai­wan’s strengths in eco­nomic devel­op­ment and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment have played an im­por­tant role in the closely con­nected global sup­ply chain.

In 2000, Tai­wan ex­pe­ri­enced the first shift in po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Un­der the rule of the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), Tai­wan par­tic­i­pated in the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der the name of Sep­a­rate Cus­toms Ter­ri­tory of Tai­wan, Penghu, Kin­men and Matsu in 2002, or “Chi­nese Taipei” in short. Though it was huge step for Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion, lit­tle progress was made in win­ning greater recog­ni­tion. In the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 2008, two ref­er­en­dums re­gard­ing Tai­wan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the United Na­tions were held si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The DPP pro­posed that the gov­ern­ment should ap­ply for UN mem­ber­ship un­der the name “Tai­wan”, whereas the KMT sug­gested the re­turn to the UN and par­tic­i­pa­tion in other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions un­der the name “Repub­lic of China” or “Tai­wan”. Nei­ther of the ref­er­en­dums passed the re­quired turnout, show­ing the lack of do­mes­tic con­sen­sus re­gard­ing Tai­wan’s nomen­cla­ture in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

Since Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou took of­fice in 2008, cross-strait ties started to im­prove. In May 2009, Tai­wan was in­vited to at­tend the World Health As­sem­bly (WHA) as an ob­server un­der the name of Chi­nese Taipei, mark­ing a re­turn to the UN-re­lated events af­ter 38 years of de­par­ture. How­ever, in 2011, it was re­ported that the WHA’s in­ter­nal memo from Bei­jing ad­dressed Tai­wan as “Tai­wan, prov­ince of China.” This sparked anger among the peo­ple of Tai­wan, and the ROC gov­ern­ment lodged a for­mal protest with the WHO, ask­ing for cor­rec­tion. The ad­ver­sity from the PRC to­wards Tai­wan in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs still ex­isted.

In 2013, Tai­wan was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the As­sem­bly of the 38th Ses­sion of the In­ter­na­tional Civil Aviation Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ICAO), un­der the name of Chi­nese Taipei. The Olympic for­mula seemed to have be­come a com­mon prac­tice for Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion.

One ma­jor rea­son of Tai­wan’s grow­ing in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion dur­ing this pe­riod might be at­trib­uted to the Ma ad­min­is­tra­tion’s adop­tion of the “1992 Con­sen­sus”, mean­ing that both sides across the Tai­wan Strait recog­nised there is only one China, but agree to in­ter­pret the mean­ing of that one China ac­cord­ing to their re­spec­tive def­i­ni­tions. With suf­fi­cient ex­change and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, lead­ers from both sides of the Tai­wan Strait met in Sin­ga­pore in Novem­ber 2015. Based on equal­ity and dig­nity, the of­fi­cial coun­try names, ti­tles, na­tional flags or any sym­bols re­lated to sovereignty were not used. In­stead, the two lead­ers, Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jin­ping, ad­dressed each other as “Mr Ma” and “Mr Xi”, and “leader of Tai­wan” and “leader of main­land China”. Ac­cord­ing to the Econ­o­mist, “The sum­mit was per­haps the big­gest con­ces­sion on a ‘core is­sue’ of sovereignty any Chi­nese leader has made since the early 1980s.” The im­por­tance of names in the sum­mit was toned down greatly, an un­prece­dented ges­ture of good­will from the PRC.

In Jan­uary 2016, Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP was elected, mark­ing the third peace­ful tran­si­tion of po­lit­i­cal pow­ers in Tai­wan. In her much-an­tic­i­pated in­au­gu­ral ad­dress in May this year, she ac­knowl­edged the his­tor­i­cal fact of a cross-strait meet­ing in 1992, but made no men­tion of the “1992 Con­sen­sus”. Crossstrait ex­changes came to a halt, and the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists to Tai­wan plum­meted dra­mat­i­cally as a re­sult. The first dif­fi­culty that the new gov­ern­ment en­coun­tered re­gard­ing Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion was the de­layed in­vi­ta­tion to the WHA. The Tsai ad­min­is­tra­tion sent the Min­is­ter of Health and Wel­fare to par­tic­i­pate. In his speech in Geneva, Min­is­ter Lin Tzouyien men­tioned only “Chi­nese Taipei”, rather than “Tai­wan”, the pre­ferred way to ad­dress the del­e­ga­tion by many DPP sup­port­ers.

The next chal­lenge will be the de­layed in­vi­ta­tion to the ICAO this Septem­ber. So far, the re­ceipt of the in­vi­ta­tion has yet to be con­firmed. In any case, civil aviation is closely re­lated to global aviation safety, and Tai­wan should not be ex­cluded in the in­ter­na­tional network due to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

In ad­di­tion, right af­ter the Rio 2016 Olympic Games ended in late Au­gust, some leg­is­la­tors pro­posed that Tai­wan should aban­don the use of the name “Chi­nese Taipei”, as this was dis­re­spect for the Tai­wanese peo­ple, and they pro­posed chang­ing that to “Tai­wan”.

With all the dif­fi­cul­ties ahead, what is the best so­lu­tion? And what is the best name to ad­dress the de facto po­lit­i­cal en­tity that has lasted for al­most seven decades on Tai­wan?

Per­haps the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to find out the an­swers. Like it or not, and much to peo­ple’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion,

Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion is closely linked to its ties with the PRC. How­ever, Tai­wan’s con­tri­bu­tions to the global health­care sys­tem and aviation safety, just to name a few, should not be ne­glected due to po­lit­i­cal fac­tors.

Names do mat­ter, but sub­stan­tive in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion may mat­ter more. Tai­wan ab­so­lutely de­serves greater space in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

Pic­tured above is Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-wen. Tai­wan’s con­tri­bu­tions to the global health­care sys­tem and aviation safety, just to name a few, should not be ne­glected due to po­lit­i­cal fac­tors.

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