The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that although it had yet to formalize a strategy for this year’s bid to join the UN, it would not be following the example of the previous administration in using the name “Taiwan.”
With the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) return to executive power following Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) victory in March’s presidential election, the announcement hardly came as a surprise. What did come as a surprise was the ministry’s apparent lack of knowledge about the position of its No. 1 ally regarding Taipei’s annual bid to join the world body.
When an anonymous ministry official said that “pragmatism” and “moderation” would be key to gaining US support for Taiwan’s UN bid, he obviously had no idea what he was talking about.
US government officials have stated time and again that Washington does not support Taiwan’s bid to join the UN. As US Senior Director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) Dennis Wilder put it so succinctly last September: “Membership in the UN requires statehood. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community.”
What did the ministry not understand about Wilder’s comments?
With no chance of support from its most powerful ally, it makes not a bit of difference what strategy the government and the ministry eventually decides upon for this year’s attempt, as this bid — like the 15 others before it — is already dead in the water.
This grim reality does not mean the government should give up though, as doing so would be to admit defeat.
Unlike membership in the World Health Assembly, which allows observer status for non-state bodies, there is no leeway in the criteria for UN membership — it is a nations-only club.
Ma has already suggested that a “pragmatic” solution for joining the WHO would be to use Taiwan’s Olympic moniker “Chinese Taipei,” but pragmatism should not be a consideration in the UN bid, as China has made it clear it will not permit Taiwan to become a member whatever name it uses, as to do so would be tantamount to admitting there are “two Chinas.”
The only reason for using such a title would be to pander to China’s sensibilities in the face of warming ties between the two sides. And while it may be acceptable to some to overlook sovereignty when it comes to things like cross-strait flights, economic ties and even health affairs, it is a different matter entirely when applying to the UN.
Abandoning sovereignty when applying to an organization that requires statehood for membership defies logic and goes against the wishes of the people who — believing his pre-election promises on protecting sovereignty — voted for Ma.
The Democratic Progressive Party administration came under fire for its “inflexible” attitude over its efforts to use the name “Taiwan,” but at least it stood for something concrete.
Applying to join the UN using a wishy-washy title such as “Chinese Taipei” would suggest that the KMT no longer believes in the sovereignty of the “Republic of China” (ROC).
If it chooses to ditch the ROC or Taiwan as national titles in favor of Chinese Taipei, the KMT — as the ruling party — becomes nothing more than a local government of China, and Taiwan a province of China.
Is this what most people who voted for Ma wanted?