Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Chen's job is to reveal the moral nakedness

By Adar Primor

This is a story about a country that nearly everyone recognizes de facto and whose existence nearly everyone denies de jure; a country that is battling a cynical world controlled by a regime of international hypocrisy, where realpolitik defeats the values of justice and morality.

This country -- which most people know as Taiwan and not as the Republic of China (ROC) -- has a small request: to join the family of nations.

For 14 years now, it has been trying to fight international alienation at the gates of the UN.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is fed up. With a flaming torch in hand, he just finished an 11-day relay race around the nation. The idea: to promote a referendum to bring the country into the UN under the name "Taiwan."

The background: the civil war in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops were defeated by Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) forces, in the wake of which the People's Republic of China was born and the ROC fled to Taiwan. After the war, most countries recognized the ROC as the legal government of China. However, in October 1971, the UN passed a resolution replacing Chiang's representatives with those of Beijing.

The Chinese seat was transferred from Taipei to Beijing, which for most other countries became "the real China."

Taiwan, which since then has undergone an impressive process of democratization and is now considered "the freest country in Asia," remains on the outside.

Chen's initiative divests itself of Chiang's legacy and the pretensions of representing China and rests on the dramatic development of national identity in Taiwan. If a decade ago more than 70 percent of the island's inhabitants defined themselves as "Chinese" and only 20 percent as "Taiwanese," current opinion polls show that now about 70 percent define themselves as "Taiwanese" and only 13 percent as "Chinese."

For Beijing, Chen's initiative is a step toward a formal declaration of independence.

In other words, a casus belli that has everyone trembling. The UN secretary-general, who received Chen's official request to join, has not even bothered to send it for discussion in the UN Security Council, as is required. He preferred to return to sender.

Europe, for its part, has informed Chen that his initiative is "not helpful" and is "liable to undermine stability."

The administration of US President George W. Bush, which whole-heartedly praises liberty and democracy, has declared the initiative a "mistake" and has contributed a typical "diplomatic pearl" to the discussion: "Taiwan cannot join the United Nations, as at the moment it is not a state in the international community."

And Israel? It has no choice but to go with the flow, as they say in Jerusalem. At least this is what Acting Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni did during her visit to Beijing last week, when she praised the "shared values" of China and Israel.

Some in Taipei wondered exactly what the minister was referring to -- values like democracy, human rights and freedom of speech?

The insult to the Taiwanese is particularly harsh in light of their identification with Israel: two small and effervescent "real democracies" engaged in their own security-existential troubles, exposed to threats and dependent on US protection and aid. Some call Taiwan "the Israel of the Pacific" and "the David of the Far East."

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