Taiwan’s return to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) after 42 years should be a happy event. Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Jean Shen (沈啟) was so moved that she almost cried. However, at a press conference, ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh-Gonzalez shattered the Taiwanese government’s hopes when he said that Taiwan was invited as a guest at China’s suggestion, thus embarrassing President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration, who had wanted to take credit for the country’s participation in the meeting.
Beijing has been the major obstacle to Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. Because of Beijing’s demand that countries and organizations block Taiwan from participating in international activities, Taiwan is completely locked out — the exceptions being the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Olympic Games, where the country can participate under the title “Chinese Taipei”.
Taiwan had strong hopes for participating as a major player. The US Congress supported Taiwan’s presence and US President Barack Obama signed a law supporting Taiwan’s membership and worked to gain the support of other member countries to support Taiwan’s participation.
Still, Kobeh-Gonzalez’s statement gave the credit to China, with the result that the US delegation’s address did not mention Taiwan. After learning about Kobeh-Gonzalez’s statement, the US delegation decided to issue a statement by the US Department of State stressing that Taiwan’s participation was the result of international cooperation to avoid the impression that it was a unilateral decision by China. This was an expression of the US government’s dissatisfaction with the situation.
Kobeh-Gonzalez clearly did not fully understand the US’ role in Taiwan-related issues and he was not very sensitive to the complexities of cross-strait relations. Although China is expanding its international influence, the US is still the world’s most powerful nation. China is a regional power and the US is acknowledging China’s position as a stakeholder in the international community, but it does not want to see China rise to take its place. When it comes to cross-strait relations, the US is the guarantor of Taiwan’s security and it would never accept Chinese demands on issues concerning Taiwan’s international participation. This is why the US and China are competing in the ICAO and neither wants to be the loser.
Taiwan wanted ICAO membership or at least to be allowed as an observer, like in the WHO. However, due to China’s opposition, the Taiwanese delegation was only allowed to attend as “guests.” The ICAO’s initial refusal to issue accreditation to Taiwanese reporters also highlighted China’s plans to block Taiwan’s participation. ICAO attendance is far from the diplomatic breakthrough that the Ma administration has bragged about.
The statement by Kobeh-Gonzalez broke a long-standing rule that one should not state in unambiguous terms the nature of the cross-strait relationship. His violation embarrassed Taipei, Washington and Beijing.
During the administration of former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the government was able to maintain national dignity despite the difficult international situation. In the international arena, they were able to obtain the appropriate status for the nation. Now Ma’s spineless government is satisfied with and even boasts of having managed to get China to agree to Taiwan’s attendance as a guest, even though it failed to gain membership or even observer status in the ICAO.
During the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum’s third leadership summit on Aug. 31, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said that the US wants to partner with the other members of the Quadrilaterial Security Dialogue — Australia, India and Japan — to establish an organization similar to NATO, to “respond to ... any potential challenge from China.” He said that the US’ purpose is to work with these nations and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region to “create a critical mass around the shared values and interest of those parties,” and possibly attract more countries to establish an alliance comparable to
On August 24, 2020, the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, made an important statement: “The Pentagon is Prepared for China.” Going forward, how might the Department of Defense team up with Taiwan to make itself even more prepared? No American wants to deter the next war by a paper-thin margin, and no one appreciates the value of strategic overmatch more than the war planners at the Pentagon. When the stakes are this high, you can bet they want to be super ready. In recent months, we have witnessed a veritable flood of high-level statements from US government leaders on
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new