Taiwan is already a `normal country'

By Mao Ching-chen 毛慶禎  / 

Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 8

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) 12th national congress last month passed the party's "normal country" resolution. The party considers this a significant development that will have an impact on the presidential election next year and also serve as an index for party unity.

After researching the meaning of "country" for the purpose of my teaching, I have found that the public's understanding of the concept is too narrow, and we almost seem paranoid in the way we have trapped ourselves in a cul de sac, while blaming an imaginary enemy.

The fact is that Taiwan is a normal country in every aspect and there's no need for us to look down on ourselves.

There are many ways to look at the definition of "country." The 192 UN members and observer states are de jure independent states.

There are nine de facto independent states, including the Republic of China which is currently recognized by 24 countries; six independent states that are not internationally recognized, including Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, South Ossetia and Transnistria; two states that are recognized by many countries but not yet independent, namely Palestine and Western Sahara; and five territories whose sovereignty is more controversial than Taiwan's, namely, Jubaland, Puntland, Cabinda, Kosovo and Kurdistan.

Also there are 58 dependent territories administered by Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the UK and the US.

Currently, 71 entities are excluded from the UN. If Taiwan's situation is considered tragic, then the people of the 70 other entities should be overwhelmed with sorrow.

The World Bank classifies its 208 members into four categories according to their per capita GNP. The organization places 58 economies in the low income category, US$905 or less; 54 in lower middle income category, US$906 to US$3,595; 40 economies in the upper middle income category, US$3,596 to US$11,115; and 55 in the high income category, US$11,116 or more. Of those in the high income category, 24 are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Taiwan's per capita GNP last year was US$16,098, higher than that of more than 150 countries, placing it in the middle of the high income category. As the Taiwan's economy is so strong, the government should ponder such long-term goals as the improvement of living standards and education instead of sticking to short-term issues and worrying the public.

The term "Third World" was coined by French economist Alfred Sauvy in an article in 1952 to refer to the countries that belonged neither to the industrialized capitalist world nor to the industrialized communist bloc.

Most of these countries are what is now called developing countries. IN 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UN proposed the Human Development Index (HDI) to replace the term "Third World." The HDI measures well-being, education and economic performance.

What is the HDI for Taiwan then? We will know after Taiwan enters the UN.

The International Movement ATD Fourth World, an organization that fights extreme poverty, has shown that there are people in developed and developing countries who are fighting for dignity every day and who have not been able to enjoy the fruits of their ancestors.

While fighting over issues such as national competitiveness and economic growth, have we ever considered our international responsibilities as a normal country?

Mao Ching-chen is an associate professor in the Library and Information Science Department at Fu Jen Catholic University.

Translated by Ted Yang