Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Taiwan is worth fighting for

At the expense of ruffling feathers in Washington, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is pushing ahead with a national referendum on joining the UN under the name "Taiwan."

Considering the somewhat frayed relationship between President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration and the US, the tit-for-tat exchanges have hardly been surprising. While the DPP is doing little to endear itself to the ever-irritable US State Department, its strategy naturally serves a domestic purpose. By trying to connect the referendum to next year's elections, Chen hopes pro-green-camp voters will turn out in higher numbers.

However, the debate has highlighted an area of indecision within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which in recent months has been experiencing an identity crisis as it tries to repackage itself as a "localized" party.

KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his party have accused Chen of using the referendum as a ploy to win votes. They say there is already a consensus among Taiwanese that the country should enter the UN, which makes a referendum unnecessary.

This criticism is not surprising. However, the KMT has also grown increasingly mute in criticizing the DPP for using "Taiwan" instead of the "Republic of China."

Instead, Ma and certain KMT officials have been throwing around another theory: The national title isn't important when applying to international organizations as long as it gets Taiwan's foot in the door. Despite accusing DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) of having "vague" cross-strait policies, the KMT seems even more wishy-washy.

KMT spokesperson Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said this week that the party supports anything that would benefit Taiwan's international position and protect the country's dignity.

KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yi (吳敦義) similarly stated that "no matter what the name is -- Republic of China, Taiwan or any other name -- any name that can reflect the country's dignity is fine. But the prerequisite is that the name must be accepted internationally."

Meanwhile, Ma on Wednesday seemed equally unconcerned, saying that anything that allows the nation to return to international organizations, including the UN, should be given support. He went on to say that Taiwan should be "flexible" about its title.

He cited the WTO, in which Taiwan has been allowed to participate under the title of the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu," as well as the International Olympic Committee, in which Taiwan has the title of "Chinese Taipei," as examples of Taiwan gaining membership through flexibility.

But Taiwan's title in these organizations does matter. It is not a trivial detail that can be brushed aside. Ma's willingness to accept any degrading and misleading name is misguided. His assertion that any name must respect Taiwan's dignity is at odds with his acceptance of any ludicrous title.

Gaining entry into every B-grade organization under an array of ridiculous names does little to assert sovereignty. Taiwan is better served by not participating in an organization rather than participating under a silly name. Taiwan, after all, is not merely a "customs territory."

While applying to international agencies under the name "Taiwan" does not usually meet with success -- as demonstrated by its WHO bid this spring -- it is important for Taiwan to maintain a standard.

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