Mon, Mar 18, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: UN family not about to adopt Taiwan

Last week the UN Security Council approved a resolution endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state. The most remarkable thing about the UN vote was of course that the US, which has long vetoed any formal UN criticism of Israel, actually not only supported, but introduced the measure. An even more remarkable thing occurred this week in Taiwan when enthusiasts for Taiwan independence seemed to think that the UN action gave Taiwan hope of being admitted to the "family of nations" -- dysfunctional as this family is -- as an independent entity. Just in case this analogy gains any sort of currency, it is as well to spend a little time to stop it dead in its tracks now.

The reason why the US has come out in support of a Palestinian state is not difficult to fathom: There is a war going on in the Middle East. And not just any war, unfortunate as any war is to those who are affected by it, but a war that is capable of a certain interpretation, which is that a US client state is conducting a colonial war against a people who are seeking their right of self determination within their own traditional lands, as guaranteed by the UN charter. Before we are flooded with mail, let us make it clear that this newspaper does not necessarily support this view. But even such an interpretation's most bitter opponents will agree that many in the Middle East do, and that this conditions the way the US is perceived -- often unfavorably -- throughout the region. So it is logical that, if the US seeks support from Arab countries in its "war on terror," it is going to have to do something to change the way it is viewed in the "Arab street." Which, in supporting the creation of a Palestinian state, it is doing.

What on earth does this have to do with Taiwan? There is no war here which demands an urgent solution. And the stumbling block in the UN is not the US but, of course, China. Not only is there no compelling strategic reason why the US should change its policy vis-a-vis China and Taiwan -- the George W. Bush administration certainly doesn't like its Beijing counterpart but sees no reason to pick a fight -- but even if it did, so what? As long as China has a Security Council seat, no resolution on Taiwan's sovereignty or the right of the people in Taiwan to self-determination is ever going to get off the ground. For such a thing to happen, all the Security Council members would have to consider this to be in their best interests, China included. And, frankly, it is hard to imagine a government in Beijing that would ever be prepared to endorse such a thing. And we don't just mean the current one of communist apparatchiks, but anything that might take its place. For how can Beijing let Taiwan go and yet plausibly hold on to say Tibet, or Xinjiang? Perhaps only the utter collapse of a unitary Chinese state can bring Taiwan an internationally recognized right to sovereign status. And, looking at what happens when states fail, even the most ardent Taiwan independence supporter has to worry about that.

Looking at recent events in the UN and thinking that this might give Taiwan hope is about as unrealistic as it is possible to get. What we have seen is that the US can change policy when it becomes strategically necessary. But China, on which the Taiwan Strait issue hinges, is not the US, and we have yet to see any outline of any scenario of strategic necessity where China would change its stance on Taiwan.

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