Mon, Apr 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Walking the sensible, long path to recognition

By Michael Lin 林正二

During the 13 years I spent in the US working in international diplomacy, I met numerous members from US think tanks, not one of whom approved of the idea of Taiwan following the legal independence route. They felt it would be detrimental to cross-strait peace and security, and would not be in the US’ interest.

Advocates of a referendum to change Taiwan’s name need to look very carefully at whether, even if such a referendum were to be successful, countries such as the US would recognize “Taiwan” as this nation’s official title, whether China would respond fiercely and whether it would not severely harm US-Taiwan relations.

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) recognized the impossibility of such a move. It is a political reality Taiwanese simply have to accept.

If Taiwan wants to change its name and become independent, it needs international recognition — otherwise the project is meaningless.

However, seen within the context of the international community upholding the “one China” policy, no country on Earth is going to recognize Taiwan simply because it has sloughed off the pretense of representing China.

Many countries have huge political and economic interest in China, and would not risk China cutting diplomatic ties with them, as it would seriously effect them.

Whenever embarking on any public endeavor, it is vital to evaluate its feasibility and any likely negative effects. This is especially true with an independence referendum, which would affect the future of the 23 million people living in Taiwan.

Taipei cannot proceed rashly without being mindful of the international situation.

If Taiwan wants to obtain legal independence, Taiwanese need to consider the international context and look for a situation that would benefit their case without harming others’ interests.

Taiwanese should aim to have allies amend their definition of the “one China” policy and, when the time is right, change “Taiwan is part of China” to “we acknowledge that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal representative of China, but Taiwan does not belong to China.”

It would then be possible for countries to recognize Taiwan.

US President Donald Trump last month signed the Taiwan Travel Act. He also hired John Bolton as his national security adviser and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo as US secretary of state — both of whom are fiercely anti-China and pro-Taiwan — as a way to elevate US-Taiwan relations with a view to containing China.

This is part of the US’ changing approach to the “one China” policy to protect the US’ interests in the Asia-Pacific region, because of the damage to peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and the Western Pacific caused by China’s bellicosity.

Nevertheless, it remains unlikely that the US government would amend its “one China” policy or recognize Taiwan any time soon.

Instead, Taipei should look for ways to take advantage of the international situation and use the Taiwan Travel Act as much as it can, encouraging the US to use the legislation and thereby further US-Taiwan relations.

This would help create an environment conducive to the US revisiting the “one China” policy and when the time is right, Taipei could ask the US to amend its policy on the maintenance of the “status quo” and recognize Taiwan.

If Taiwan could re-establish diplomatic relations with the US, other countries should follow and the international community would recognize Taiwan.

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