Fri, Nov 16, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Paradigm shift needed on Taiwan

By Bruce Jacobs 家博

First, Taiwan should never break relations with a state that recognizes the People’s Republic of China. This is true even if the state has been insulting.

Second, on the basis of the “one China” policy being in the same category as a “flat Earth” understanding, Taiwan should work closely with the world’s democratic powers to have more formal relations with Taiwan, even as they maintain relations with China.

It is worth noting that, in fact, many countries such as the US and Australia already have de facto “one China, one Taiwan” policies, although they do not admit this. I believe it is now time to move forward on these new understandings.

International law supports Taiwan. Specialists in international law agree that the Convention on Rights and Duties of States signed in Montevideo on Dec. 26, 1933, is the key document on statehood.

According to Article 1 of the Convention on Rights and Duties of States, a state has “a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

Taiwan clearly and easily meets these requirements for statehood.

Furthermore, Article 3 emphasizes that “the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”

This means, even if Taiwan has not one single country that recognizes it formally, Taiwan is still a state.

It is essential that Taiwan move from the current “one China” policy of recognizing either China or Taiwan to a situation in which states will feel comfortable recognizing both China and Taiwan.

China will, of course, oppose these actions. However, in accord with classical balance-of-power theory, a rising power will be met by a coalition of powers opposing it.

China has demonstrated that it is an expansionist power that breaks a whole host of international conventions quite willingly. As we can see, many democratic powers are now moving against China. This reaction against China can be used by Taiwan and the democratic powers to move international relations in ways I have suggested.

It is important to remember that Taiwan, like Australia, is a full-fledged member of the world’s “middle powers.”

Taiwan is not “tiny” or “small.” Its population exceeds more than three-quarters of the world’s nations. Its territory is larger than two-fifths of the world’s nations. It has a highly developed and prosperous economy, a substantial military and a fine educational system. Taiwan is an important middle power.

In summary, Taiwan and the world’s democratic powers need to move from such “flat Earth” understandings as “one China” including Taiwan to a new paradigm in which Taiwan is a nation-state without historical ties to China — other than that of the KMT’s colonial dictatorship. Such old concepts as “one China” have no use in examining modern Taiwan.

Second, Taiwan must work with the democratic powers to establish foreign relations on a new basis that does not make nations choose between Taiwan and China. Both are nations of the world and both should be recognized as such.

Bruce Jacobs is emeritus professor of Asian languages and studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. This is an edited version of a speech he gave to a Boomerang Lunch at the Australian Office in Taipei on Friday last week.

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