TAIWAN: by Jeffry Babb News Weekly
Taiwan's latest bid to gain UN membership
, September 16, 2006
Taiwan has launched its 14th consecutive bid for entry into the United Nations, backed by its diplomatic allies but ignored by other member nations, including Australia, writes Jeffry Babb.As a nation, Taiwan has a population of 23 million, making it the 47th largest population in the world and an efficient government and solid institutions. It is a vibrant democratic society and an active international partner.
Why can't it gain entry to the UN? The answer is the People's Republic of China. Beijing believes that Taiwan, which split from the mainland following the victory of Mao Tse-tung's Communists in 1949, must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary. Beijing now has some 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan, growing by some 100 more annually.
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland and periodically reiterates this policy, just so the world won't forget its claims and intentions. Although, during the Cold War, East and West Germany were both UN members, Beijing invariably comes down hard on anything which suggests statehood for Taiwan, or "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan".UN representation
The UN General Assembly meets on September 12. The proposal for Taiwan's admission to the UN addresses "the question of representation and participation of the 23 million people of Taiwan in the United Nations" and requests the inclusion of Taiwan's entry bid as a supplementary item to the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
Due to China's intransigent opposition to Taiwan's entry into any body which implies statehood, the bid is unlikely to get even as far as the agenda, due to what Taiwan describes as "political apartheid".
A letter to the UN, lodged by Taiwan's diplomatic allies, declares: "Since the end of the Cold War, and with the advent of globalisation, the work of the United Nations has become increasingly important, and the realisation of the principle of universality has taken on new urgency. With the admission of East Timor, Switzerland and Montenegro, almost all the countries of the world have become members of this ever more truly global organisation - except one, Taiwan.
"After all the United Nations has achieved towards realising the principle of universality, the complete exclusion of Taiwan from the United Nations poses a moral and legal challenge to the international community."
Interestingly, the explanatory memorandum accompanying the UN bid refers to the nation by its formal name - the Republic of China - but afterwards uses "Taiwan".
This change is due largely to domestic political factors. The independence-leaning government of the embattled President Chen Shui-bian has been replacing, wherever possible, the name "Republic of China" with the name "Taiwan". Recently announced is another step in this direction - the re-naming of the island's main international airport from the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport to the "Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport". The name and image of the country's former strongman president, Chiang Kai-shek, is being systematically removed from all places in Taiwan. His statue is being removed from all army bases.
Taiwan's long-sought entry to the UN is being accompanied by another proposal, termed "the peace proposal". It urges "East Asian countries to settle disputes through peaceful means and encourage concerned countries in the region to take further steps toward military transparency and confidence-building". This is clearly aimed at mainland China, which has refused to rule out the use of force in the Taiwan Strait to reunite the Republic of China/Taiwan with the "motherland".
Overcoming the China-led opposition to Taiwan's UN entry will be a long, hard road. Taiwan's bid is supported by some of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, with which it has formal diplomatic ties - now shrunk to just 24 following China's relentless pressure, backed by substantial financial incentives, to break ties with Taipei and recognise Beijing.
One new approach has been suggested by former UN official and now Taiwan External Trade Development Council editor Curtis Smith. Smith, who worked in Cambodia with the UN, supervising that country's ground-breaking general elections, suggests that Taiwan become a centre for UN activities, using its non-membership as an incentive, the same way Switzerland acted for many years.
"Taiwan should be the conscience and watchdog of the UN," says Smith.
He also suggests that Taiwan seek support from middle-level powers, such as the Netherlands, Australia and Canada, for its UN bid.
"This would generate support for UN entry by credible international powers, rather than relying on the 'allies,' which are smaller, less influential countries," says Smith.
This year, Taiwan's UN entry campaign will use the theme "UN-human" to underscore the world body's "un-human treatment of Taiwan".
In all, some battles have to be waged, even though little prospect of immediate success exists. If Taiwan can raise its profile and gain some credible middle-level supporters, it is possible that one day, it might be successful.- Jeffry Babb is a Taipei-based journalist.