The trip to Taiwan by former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton shows there are at least a few people in the upper tiers of Washington who are prepared to speak in support of Taiwan and to act on their words by visiting and affording respect to the office of Taiwanese president. So, more strength to him and those like him.
But Bolton knows, as much as any informed friend or foe of Taiwan, that Taiwan's bid to join the UN is about the performance, not the result. When conclusions are foregone, sometimes there is hay to be made from the ritual of failure.
Regrettably, all too often this hay is left in the barn, so to speak, by diplomats who simply do not know how to communicate with Washington's jumpier officials.
Taiwan should therefore offer its gratitude to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose recent misuse of the UN Charter and UN Resolutions can only harm the credibility of the UN and assist Taiwan's cause. When Ban refused to accept a letter from President Chen Shui-bian (
Only a mistake of this seriousness could possibly take the heat off Chen and place it squarely on the UN itself -- even among pro-China forces in the US.
Even better, China has threatened to introduce a motion to the UN to affirm that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China, an action that would be as strategically inept as any that Beijing has come up with in recent years. And this comes just as many begin to wake up to Beijing's attitude toward the rest of the world: If you have what we want, then we can be friends; if you dare cast light on our atrocities and neglect, then we can not.
If Beijing is stupid enough to up-end the "status quo" that pro-China forces in the US use to keep Taiwan in line, it will find little joy.
In the unlikely event that the matter goes to the Security Council, it will be vetoed by the US and possibly other nations. More likely, however, it would be put to the General Assembly, and this is where the fun would begin.
What would happen? Countries rich in natural resources that depend on China for investment will fall into line quite happily, though some in Asia might balk at the prospect of ramping up tensions. Communist states would also follow the party line. Meanwhile, Taiwan's two dozen allies would most likely vote against the motion. No surprises there.
China's problem lies in the majority that remains. Most countries have been happy to follow along with China's blustering and demagoguery because most of it has seemed to be hot air. Humor Beijing a little and keep things calm, so the reasoning goes, and economic benefits will be there for everyone.
But in demanding that this pragmatism turn into support for a symbolic statement that would authorize Chinese violence, Beijing will likely discover that many countries -- possibly most -- will be less tolerant. The result: a humiliating majority of abstentions and a number of "no" votes sprinkled among them, and a severe blow to the credibility of China's claim to Taiwan both at home and abroad.
Advocates of Taiwanese independence must be salivating at the thought of it: an international repudiation of Beijing's imperial agenda sparked by China's own stupidity.
Some in China must realize that there is this risk, and the whole affair may quietly disappear. But it remains tempting to say to China, and to its UN cheer squad: Bring it on, you oafs. Do your worst.
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