Mon, Feb 10, 2020 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr. On Taiwan: ‘Republic of China’ and ‘Taiwan’

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) convincing reelection last month suggests “Taiwan” is now a name the international community is ready for; one that fits easily into the global “status quo.”

It has been a long struggle. Elbowing past China’s “Chinese Taipei” moniker has been exhausting. The task is complicated by Taiwan’s official title “Republic of China.” Outside of Taiwan, nobody says “Republic of China” anymore, not even countries that recognize the ROC as the “government of all China.” The ongoing crises in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, China’s quest for global telecommunications domination and cyber-surveillance, to name a few, are changing attitudes across the globe, opening eyes to Taiwan’s predicament.

President Tsai’s reelection, a convincing mandate indeed, is encouraging the world’s democracies to be much more open and supportive toward Taiwan as “Taiwan” — and more resistant to China’s “Orwellian” demands that Taiwan’s elections be regarded as “only a local affair.” This worries China. On January 26, Madame Liu Fang (柳芳), the China-backed secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organization, took it upon herself to ban all mention of “Taiwan” on the ICAO’s Twitter properties. It was a move so ludicrous that the US state department openly protested it as reflecting “the political insecurities” of a certain “member state.”

Following the January 11 elections, dozens of countries congratulated President Tsai and the “people of Taiwan” on their success. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) “expressed indignation and opposition” when the governments “of the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan sent congratulations to Tsai Ing-wen.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not impressed. A week after he sent congratulations to Tsai, he lauded “Taiwan” several times during his New Year policy speech to the Diet, praising Taiwan’s assistance to Japan during the 2011 earthquake, and welcoming Taiwanese athletes to the Summer Olympiad in Tokyo this July.

In Washington, Ms. Tsai’s reelection marked a new direction in America’s policy relationship with “Taiwan. US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo sent President Tsai a message both overflowing in warmth and sharply divergent in tone from Washington’s previous election messages. For example, Secretary Pompeo thanked “Taiwan” (not “the Taiwanese people”) “for once again demonstrating the strength of its robust democratic system, which … makes it a model for the Indo-Pacific region and a force for good in the world.” Second, he stressed the “American people” and “the people on Taiwan” are “not just partners” but “members of the same community of democracies, bonded by our shared political, economic, and international values … and work to be positive forces in the international community.” Unlike all previous congratulation messages from the US Government, Pompeo’s was careful in its parity: “The United States” and “Taiwan” or “American People” and “The People on Taiwan.”

Thank heavens, there was no mention of “unofficial relations.”

But Mr. Pompeo did something much more remarkable:

He thanked President Tsai personally “for her leadership in developing a strong partnership with the United States.” No other message had ever said that! And he applauded “her commitment to maintaining cross-Strait stability in the face of unrelenting pressure. Under her leadership, we hope Taiwan will continue to serve as a shining example for countries that strive for democracy, prosperity, and a better path for their people.” Secretary Pompeo said “Taiwan” and “countries” in the same breath! Moreover, Mr. Pompeo’s allusion to China’s “unrelenting pressure” is the first time the United States has chosen to lay full blame upon Beijing for cross-Strait tensions. All previous US administrations were eager to blame Taiwan for tensions, as if trying not to take sides between democracy and tyranny.

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