Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan as the ‘Switzerland of Asia’

By Jerome Keating

Events in recent weeks have proven to be very positive for Taiwan. The Taipei Summer Universiade has concluded and is judged by all to be a major success.

A total of 7,376 athletes from more than 130 nations came to Taiwan and participated in 271 events and 21 sports. Taiwan, after winning 90 medals, was ranked third out of the competing nations, surpassing both Russia and the US.

In addition, Formosat-5, the nation’s first domestically developed satellite, was successfully launched on Aug. 24 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This satellite is already sending back images as it orbits.

However, despite all the joy and sense of accomplishment from these events, a certain irony has lingered since the Universiade: The host nation, Taiwan, had to participate under the ridiculous and insulting name of “Chinese Taipei.”

Like unwanted residue, this name persists from when Taiwan was a one-party state under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

After the Republic of China (ROC) lost its UN seat in 1971, the KMT accepted the name “Chinese Taipei” in lieu of other names like “Taiwan” or “Formosa” for use at the Olympics and other international sports events, because it wanted to preserve the dying dream that the ROC would once again be China’s representative at the UN and to the world.

Nonetheless, there is a silver lining to be found here.

It lies in resurrecting an idea put forth by former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮): Taiwan must take hold of its own destiny, but to do so, it should borrow a page from Switzerland’s playbook. In short, it should aspire to be the “Switzerland of Asia.”

Such an idea might initially seem far-fetched, as metaphors only go so far, but the thought does have merit.

Examine the reality of the Universiade and the silly duplicity exposed by Taiwan having to participate under “Chinese Taipei.”

Thousands upon thousands of athletes and visitors came to Taiwan from around the world for the Games. All these guests had to get their visas and entry permits from somewhere.

They did not get them from China; they did not get them from the US; they did not get them from the UN, where only 19 members officially recognize Taiwan. They certainly did not get them from the fictitious Chinese Taipei. They got them from the ROC — from Taiwan.

What does this have to do with Switzerland? The Swiss have always earned respect because of their fierce sense of independence and neutrality.

Actually, the word “neutrality” has an added modifier: “armed neutrality.” This is what Taiwan can learn from Switzerland about maintaining its position in the world.

A past Taipei Times article highlighted Taiwan’s de facto independence and showed how other nations mask their not-too-covert recognition of Taiwan (“Taiwan already enjoys independence,” Aug. 17, page 8).

Also discussed were the many areas, economic and otherwise, in which Taiwan proudly outshines and outperforms a majority of UN members. For example, Taiwan’s GDP is higher than that of 85 percent of UN members. A nation does not achieve such a high GDP if it is simply the others’ charity case — Taiwan has earned its position in the marketplace.

How does this relate to Taiwan emulating Switzerland’s armed neutrality?

The Swiss have a history of linking independence and neutrality. This history goes back to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia.

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