The UN General Assembly convened in New York earlier this month and is currently in session. As expected, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has not put forward any bid to join the UN. Ma’s inaction regarding UN membership is entirely in keeping with his China-friendly policies such as declaring a “diplomatic truce” with China and prioritizing relations across the Taiwan Strait above all else.
China, which published a white paper titled China’s Peaceful Development shortly before the opening of the UN General Assembly session, praises what it calls “the Taiwan authorities” for having stopped making bids to join the UN, saying that this has reduced head-on conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Also, just recently, came the US decision not to sell Taiwan advanced F-16C/D jets, but only to assist in upgrading its existing F-16A/B fighters. That did not stop China from protesting against the arms sales package, however.
China’s game plan is very clear. On the one hand, it wants to reduce Taiwan’s space on the world stage, while on the other it aims to weaken Taiwan’s defenses. If this trend is allowed to continue, it will be only a matter of time before China annexes Taiwan.
Taiwan’s applications to join the UN have always been obstructed by China. Nevertheless, former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) unswervingly persisted in fighting for Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity, thereby ensuring that the world community remained aware of the Taiwanese public’s aspirations.
This policy was in line with public opinion, but when Ma arrived, it was put on hold. It should be noted that Ma said one thing before the last presidential election, but did something very different after he was elected. During the election campaign, Ma solemnly declared that rejoining the UN was the common aspiration of Taiwan’s 23 million people, and that his administration would keep on working toward that goal. Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) even countered the Democratic Progressive Party’s referendum proposal to join the UN under the name “Taiwan” by proposing its own referendum proposal to make pragmatic and flexible applications to rejoin the UN and to join other international organizations.
However, in the end the KMT did not even support its own referendum proposal. What is more, since Ma became president, he has not said a word about rejoining the UN. Only during his first year in office did Taiwan encourage some friendly countries to propose a motion to the UN General Assembly supporting Taiwan’s right of “meaningful participation in UN specialized agencies and mechanisms.” Two more years have passed, but the motion has not been proposed again.
Ma has completely reneged on his campaign promise to the public. He is no longer making any effort to join the UN or its specialized agencies. Rather, his government asks only to take part in the activities of those agencies. The only reward Taiwan has received for Ma’s non-stop pandering to China has been to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei,” which does not give us member status at all. To make matters worse, the WHO continues to downgrade Taiwan’s status by calling it “Taiwan, Province of China.”
While bowing and scraping to China, Ma seeks to fool the public with talk of the so-called “1992 consensus.” He claims not to have sold out the nation’s sovereignty in the slightest, while creating an impression of peace across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to show that Ma’s claim that the two sides agree to disagree over their respective interpretations of “one China” is nothing more than his personal view, because China is clearly not living up to such an approach. China’s official declarations continue to stress its opposition to any moves in the international community toward creating “two Chinas.” This standpoint is a roundabout way of denying the existence of any agreement about “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” because allowing the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China to coexist, as interpreted by the two sides, would be tantamount to creating “two Chinas.”
Nevertheless, it is worth paying some attention to the political language China likes to use. When it talks about opposing any moves in the international community toward creating “two Chinas,” it gives Ma an illusory space in which to maneuver in that it does not stop him from trying to fool the Taiwanese public by going on about “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” When it comes to the international arena, however, China will definitely not allow him to go around publicizing the “Republic of China.” To put it another way, he is allowed to sell that idea on the home market, but not overseas.
Ma can hardly be unaware of the game China is playing, so he knows that by not applying for Taiwan to join the UN or its specialized agencies as a sovereign nation for three years now he is letting China walk all over Taiwan on the world stage. The scariest thing is that, while China is licking its lips over Taiwan, Ma goes around looking very pleased with himself and giving the international community the impression that people in Taiwan are gradually coming to accept China as a suzerain power.
For the past three years, Ma has used his “diplomatic truce” as a cover for his true China-friendly inclinations. He likes to boast about the fact that more than 100 countries offer Taiwanese passport holders visa-free entry, and about Taiwan’s substantial participation in the activities of international organizations, but none of that has anything to do with safeguarding Taiwan’s national sovereignty.
On the contrary, while Ma seeks popularity with talk of a “peace dividend,” the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has damaged Taiwan’s sovereignty and is aligning its economy ever more closely to China’s.
Meanwhile, on the international front, China has launched an all-out campaign to extinguish Taiwan’s sovereignty.
As a result, at least five countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan are thinking of switching recognition to Beijing, and it is only because of China’s desire to give “comfort” to Ma and the Taiwanese public that Beijing has not yet accepted these countries’ advances. Ma is delighted about this and claims it as his own political achievement. If China goes on praising him and helping him from the sidelines, we can expect to see Ma beaming.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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