“It takes two to tango.” So said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in an interview last Thursday with the Chinese-language Global View magazine when asked if his administration had wishful thinking on thawing relations with China.
After reading the latest statement by Chinese Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya (王光亞), it is all too clear that Beijing has no desire to tango with Taiwan on terms that deviate in any way from Chinese demands.
In the letter dated Aug. 18 to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Wang noted that the UN and its specialized agencies are intergovernmental organizations composed only of sovereign states.
He then said: “As a part of China, Taiwan is not a sovereign State. The claim by a very few countries that specialized agencies should allow the Taiwan region to ‘participate’ in their activities under the ‘principle of universality’ is unfounded.”
“The mainland and the Taiwan region are not yet reunited,” Wang continued, “but the fact that the two sides belong to one and the same China has never changed.”
He then asked Taiwan’s allies to observe “the principle of respecting State sovereignty and territorial integrity, and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”
Wang’s remarks came as a hard, cold slap in the Ma administration’s face. Even more pathetically, Ma and his team took the hit without protest.
The Presidential Office yesterday declined to comment on Wang’s statement, leaving the incompetent Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a pallid statement asking for more negotiations.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government has touted its UN strategy this year as moderate and pragmatic, forgoing the campaign for full UN membership and instead pitching for Taiwan to be allowed “meaningful participation” in the world body’s affiliates.
A top official at the National Security Council told reporters last week that the Ma administration, in dropping the push for UN entry, was hoping that Taiwan could secure an observer seat at the World Health Assembly (WHA) next year.
The official added that he was optimistic at the possibility of success.
Judging from Wang’s words, the chances are bleak: “On the basis of the one China principle, the Chinese Government reaches with the secretariat of the WHO a MOU, which provides facilitation to medical experts of the Taiwan region in their participation in WHO technical conferences and activities. The Taiwan region has unfettered access to health and medical information of the WHO.”
In other words, China is likely to use the same old excuse to shut Taiwan out of the WHA next year.
Ma has said on many occasions that his preferred kind of diplomacy focuses on practicality and flexibility, all the while maintaining Taiwan’s interests and dignity.
But having been slapped around by China after bending over backwards to look, sound and be cooperative, it is hard to find evidence of this.
At some point Ma and his government will have to start showing China — and the rest of the world, for that matter — that they have the guts to stand up to Beijing if it has no interest in cultivating mutual goodwill.