Fri, Dec 26, 2008 - Page 8 News List

The death of de facto sovereignty

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Now, after all this, the government has renamed its military attaches in the US to show that it is weakening military relations with Washington.

Big steps backward in the international, cross-strait and domestic arenas have inflicted considerable harm on the nation’s sovereignty.

Worse, the government is cooperating with a requirement in China’s “Anti-Secession” Law that Taiwan obtain approval from China before joining international organizations.

This is most obvious in the case of Taiwan’s bid to join the WHO. Taiwan is already a member of the WTO, an organization far more important than the WHO. The international community therefore did not necessarily side with China’s block on WHO participation.

Had former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) not raised his requirements for WHO membership, Taiwan would have been able to join the organization long before the transition of power. Instead, Chen passed the job to Ma, who is now asking China for permission to join the WHO. China is, of course, likely to exercise flexibility in regard to participation in order to advance its agenda of unification.

Ma’s cross-strait diplomatic strategy can be analyzed thus: Taiwan’s status is above Hong Kong’s because the former still enjoys autonomy and elects its own president and legislature. But its status is beneath that of Belarus and Ukraine under the Soviet Union because Taiwan cannot be a member of the UN. Its status is also lower than imperial China’s tributary states — Korea, for example — because Taiwan has less diplomatic freedom. Taiwan has abandoned not only its de jure, but also its de facto sovereignty.

Taiwan’s international status, as defined by the Ma administration, has more sovereignty than in “one country, two systems,” but a lot less than imperial client states. Taiwan has given up its claim of being an independent and sovereign state; it is now a quasi-client state.

Under this definition, it is not surprising that Taiwan would ask for Chinese approval to join the WHO or downgrade its US-based military attaches.

The question is if the Taiwanese public is prepared to accept this state of affairs without complaint.

Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.


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