AIIB re­buff is sub­or­di­na­tion of Tai­wan that sig­nals later risks

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY ENRU LIN

Over the past sev­eral weeks, state of­fi­cials have said re­peat­edly that Tai­wan will ac­cept ad­mis­sion to the Bei­jing-led Asian In­vest­ment In­fra­struc­ture Bank (AIIB) only on terms of dig­nity and equal­ity, or not at all.

Yes­ter­day, af­ter China an­nounced that it has re­jected Tai­wan’s bid to be­come a “found­ing mem­ber,” the cen­tral gov­ern­ment said Tai­wan will now seek membership as an “or­di­nary mem­ber” — again, on terms of dig­nity and equal­ity.

To that end, Tai­wan is re­solved to only ac­cept or­di­nary membership un­der the des­ig­na­tion of “Chi­nese Taipei,” and not as “Tai­wan, Chi- na,” said Leg­isla­tive Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( ) af­ter a meet­ing with the Cabi­net.

For Tai­wan, odds are good that it can join the AIIB later as an or­di­nary mem­ber, pos­si­bly even un­der the pre­ferred des­ig­na­tion of Chi­nese Taipei.

But whether Tai­wan en­ters as Chi­nese Taipei or Tai­wan, China is no longer so im­por­tant. China’s re­jec­tion of Tai­wan’s found­ing membership bid has al­ready sub­or­di­nated Tai­wan as a non-na­tion, and its ac­tions to­day sig­nal ac­tions to­mor­row that will be in­flu­enced by po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties.

The Only Ex­cep­tion

The dif­fer­ence be­tween found­ing mem­ber and or­di­nary mem­ber is not ap­par­ent, as the cir­cle of founders, which on Sun­day ex­panded to wel­come Ge­or­gia, Fin­land, Den­mark, Brazil and the Nether­lands, has yet to cre­ate the rules and reg­u­la­tions.

The only fact known by the Fi­nance Min­istry, which is han­dling Tai­wan’s bid, is that found­ing mem­bers have the right to cre­ate th­ese rules and reg­u­la­tions.

But even with­out the fine print, Bei­jing’s mes­sage to Tai­wan is clear.

Founders can dis­cuss rules; or­di­nary mem­bers play by them. Un­der the PRC’s “one China” pol­icy, Tai­wan is not to sit at the same ta­ble as the other na­tions.

A to­tal of 47 coun­tries ap­plied to join the AIIB be­fore the March 31 dead­line for found­ing mem­bers. De­spite U.S. and Ja­pan ef­forts to steer al­lies away from the fi­nan­cial ven­ture, nearly all na­tions in Asia and most ma­jor coun­tries else­where are ac­cepted or have ap­pli­ca­tions pending.

Bei­jing has said the fi­nal ros­ter of found­ing mem­bers will be re­leased on April 15. So far, the AIIB has dis­qual­i­fied no for­mal ap­pli­cant be­sides Tai­wan.

For­eign me­dia re­port that the AIIB re­buffed an in­for­mal ad­vance from North Korea in Fe­bru­ary, but China’s For­eign Min­istry has de­nied it, say­ing all par­ties are wel­come to pro­mote in­fra­struc­ture-build­ing.

A Dilemma

Even if Tai­wan joins the AIIB at a later date, there are still benefits that a po­lit­i­cally fraught proposi- tion could bring.

The Fi­nance Min­istry has said that par­tic­i­pat­ing in the AIIB, ei­ther as a founder or an or­di­nary mem­ber, would widen mar­ket op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal con­struc­tion firms, raise Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional pro­file and deepen re­gional in­te­gra­tion, all in re­turn for a mi­nor fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment.

For a state in rel­a­tive re­gional iso­la­tion, th­ese gains could very well be greater than the cost.

But es­pe­cially be­cause Tai­wan is in po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic limbo, state of­fi­cials need to face the hard truths head-on. In the end, if Tai­wan de­cides to ac­cept AIIB membership as Chi­nese Taipei, no one should be un­der the illusion that the en­try is on terms of dig­nity.

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