Mon, May 12, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: When lives hinge on a name

A march originally scheduled for yesterday to promote a name change for Taiwan was rescheduled for September due to the SARS epidemic. However, Taiwan's continuing exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the difficulty of containing the SARS outbreak have once again highlighted China's thuggish political maneuvers against this country -- and why Taiwan needs a name change.

To break through China's diplomatic blockade and push for the country's participation in international organizations, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has personally taken the lead in the push for WHO observership. When meeting with foreign guests, Chen has repeatedly stressed that the basic human rights of the nation's 23 million people should not be neglected, and that its medical establishment is willing to contribute to the welfare of the global community. During a visit to African allies last June, Chen once again demonstrated the government's sincerity by providing large amounts of health-care supplies to help fight cholera and AIDS in those countries. Such actions, in line with the WHO's objectives, demonstrate a humanitarian spirit that transcends national and regional boundaries.

Unfortunately, despite its efforts Taiwan has not overcome the prevailing hegemonic and self-

interested attitudes in international politics. Year after year, the question of Taiwan's observership has been excluded from the agenda of World Health Assembly meetings.

This year's WHA meeting is scheduled for May 19. Over the past month, the international media as well as the legislatures in the US, Japan and Europe have publicly stressed the importance of letting this country into the WHO. In an article published in the Washington Post last Friday, Chen stressed that the international community should not exclude Taiwan from the WHO because this is not only against the spirit of humanitarianism but can also create a loophole in the global health care network, thereby endangering the entire world.

It is unfortunate that the Chinese leadership in the Zhongnanhai is still unable to understand how it is letting down the Taiwanese people at this crucial moment, as they have done so many times in the past. Just when Taiwan urgently needs help from the international community, Beijing's leaders continue to spout the "one China principle" and do whatever they can to block this nation's entry into the WHO.

The "one China" discourse has always been the foundation of Beijing's diplomatic blockade against Taiwan. The government certainly will not vie with Beijing for the right to represent "China." Speaking at a fundraising event last month, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said, "Insisting on the name `Republic of China' will only lead to a dead-end road. Without a name change, Taiwan has no road to walk."

But the name-change movement is not something that can yield results in the short term. The DPP government is already pushing for some changes, such as adding the word "Taiwan" to passport covers and changing the names of the nation's representative offices overseas. But these are merely tactical moves. To win support from other countries in the diplomatic arena, Taiwan needs strategic thinking.

To join international organizations, the government needs to emerge from the "one China" rut and use "Taiwan" as its name. Only by pushing for a name change can the country build itself as a polity and thereby establish a national identity.

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