Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Don’t leave our future in hands of Beijing

By Chiang Huang-Chih 姜皇池

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has finally publicly addressed the issue of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, saying that “after cross-strait consultations resume, issues of concern to Taiwanese on participation in international organizations will be discussed, with priority given to participation in WHO activities.”

This seems to present an opportunity for Taiwan, while also affirming an approach that places cross-strait relations before diplomatic relations.

However, without diplomacy, there can be no cross-strait relations. A look at international events and organizations in which Taiwan participates shows that every accomplishment has been achieved in the face of Chinese opposition. The same applies to diplomatic ties.

The nation’s WTO membership met with Chinese opposition from the outset. Taiwan had to negotiate with each individual member state. Thanks to some previous diplomatic achievements, they all supported the bid. As a result of its fierce opposition, China came under pressure from all sides. This pressure and Taiwan’s diplomatic leverage forced China to show “goodwill.”

Aside from economic and trade organizations, the same applies to membership in regional fishery organizations. Even if China had shown goodwill from the start, Taiwan couldn’t have obtained its near-equal participation in such organizations without extended diplomatic effort. Such progress and achievements should be remembered by any national leader.

The biggest hindrance to Taiwan’s international participation is China. If it supported Taiwan, or even refrained from aggressively opposing it, everything would be much easier. However, if Taiwan’s international space must first be discussed in cross-strait negotiations, it will not be able to choose or decide on any issues related to international participation. The best-case scenario is that the issues would be decided by both Taiwan and China; while at worst they would be decided by China alone. How, then, would Taiwan differ from Hong Kong or Macau?

International participation often involves Taiwan’s particular interests, in which China has no right to intervene. Even the “caring” approval of Beijing does not necessarily mean that Taiwan will be able to easily obtain its goals. China is not a signatory to the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, for example, which does not involve concrete Chinese interests. China has therefore never actively intervened in its technical issues. Still, other signatories to the convention refuse to accept Taiwan as an equal, resulting in unfair distribution of catch quotas and boycotts from countries for political and technical reasons. Taiwan must fight every step of the way.

Cross-strait relations is an important issue that must be dealt with. China has delivered “goodwill” messages on Taiwan’s WHO membership bid, but it would be premature and unwise to examine and discuss Taiwan’s diplomatic issues within a cross-strait framework because of this single case.

If Taiwan’s international participation should be decided by China, our so-called “international space” would be nothing more than a “cage” within a “one China” framework, even if the “motherland” was considering the interests of Taiwanese. Hong Kong and Macau are good examples: Would Taiwanese be happy to see that happen here?

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