The World Health Assembly held its annual meeting in Geneva this week. It was a major meeting of international health ministers, representing the member states of the WHO. Because of Chinese obstruction and bullying, Taiwan’s health minister was able to attend the meeting only as an “observer.”
In September 2010, a confidential internal memo became public, in which the WHO instructed its staff to refer to Taiwan as a “province of China.” Regrettably, in spite of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of accommodation with China, Taiwan is still being politically isolated and treated as a nonentity, or worse.
China is going to incredible lengths in its attempts to push Taiwan into a corner: In a nebulous UN subcommittee, it got the UN to refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, Province of China,” so now the International Standards Organization in Geneva lists Taiwan as such, with the result that in drop-down menus in computers all over the world, Taiwan-born people who want to list Taiwan as their birthplace are suddenly confronted with the unpleasant dilemma of having to note “Province of China” as their birthplace.
Fortunately — when organizations like the California voter registration system or the Boston Athletic Association, which listed “Taiwan, Province of China” in their drop-down menu for the registration of voters — were notified of the erroneous designation, they rectified it right away.
Another silly designation, mainly used in the sports world, is Chinese Taipei. China only allows Taiwan to use this name when it enters international competitions, such as the Olympics, the World Baseball Classic series and the FIFA World Cup. Why can’t Taiwan be simply called “Taiwan” so we can start moving toward normal relations with other countries?
Since the early 1990s, when Taiwan made its momentous transition to democracy under former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), it has been a free and democratic nation in which the government simply represents the people of the nation, not more but also not less.
Somehow, because of Taiwan’s complicated history, the US and other democratic countries still leave it dangling in diplomatic isolation. There are five countries that do not have official diplomatic relations with the US: Cuba, Bhutan, Iran, North Korea and Taiwan. Does Taiwan fit in that picture? Of course not. So it would be good if the US and western Europe were to adjust their policies to the new reality of a free and democratic Taiwan and move toward normalization of relations with Taiwan.
And it would be good to start this process by calling Taiwan by its own name, “Taiwan,” instead of twisting ourselves into artificial constructs that have no legal basis or practical relevance.
Taiwan is a highly developed nation that can contribute a lot to the international community. It is willing and able to be a full and equal member of the international community. Let us leave the fictions of the past and work toward a future in which Taiwan can play its role.
Serena Su is a graduate of Purdue University.
Last year, China entered into a spat with Lithuania over Vilnius allowing Taipei to open a de facto embassy using the name “Taiwan.” Beijing recalled its ambassadors from Lithuania and downgraded its diplomatic ties with the Baltic state to the “charge d’affaires” level. In hindsight, China should realize that this move handed Lithuania on a plate to Taiwan. China used its economic leverage as punishment. First, it tried to pressure German industry giant Continental AG to stop using Lithuanian-made components. When an EU trade commissioner said that Chinese customs were refusing to clear goods containing Lithuanian parts, China denied it was at
With the fall of Kabul not yet six months past, Washington faces a fresh test of its ability to sustain Pax Americana, as more than 100,000 Russian troops, heavy artillery and tanks mass on Russia’s border with Ukraine. The mounting crisis looks set to become the greatest test of US President Joe Biden’s administration to date — the outcome of which could have far-reaching implications and send ripples through the Taiwan Strait. Moscow’s Ukraine gambit appears designed to probe the Biden administration — to ferret out its red lines and ascertain whether Washington is willing to commit troops to defend its
On Thursday’s second anniversary of the creation of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that it is working toward “zero COVID,” and that precise calculation and careful planning would be needed if the nation must accept “living with the virus.” He also said if the virus can be eliminated through contact tracing, isolation and other public health measures, unlike the harsh lockdowns in China, then it should be done. “Zero COVID will be the approach, but not the goal,” he said. After a janitor at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
This year will be a critical one for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who will need to accelerate the realization of her policy agenda. In the past few weeks, Tsai has overcome the political tests of the four referendums, a recall and a by-election. She should now put these behind her and use the momentum they provided to move forward. Also, next year, Taiwan will need to brace for a bitterly fought campaign for the 2024 presidential election, when rational discussion on national policy will be put on hold, as politicians prioritize attracting voters. There is, therefore, no better time than