Back in the 1960s and 1970s the US and other Western nations tried to convince the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) regime to accept “dual recognition” and thereby avoid expulsion from the UN. Even former US president George H.W. Bush, who served as US ambassador to the UN in the early 1970s, worked hard for this very rational resolution.
However, a recalcitrant Chiang foolishly rejected the option and thereby caused Taiwan to slide into international isolation. The present Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is making the same mistake: It is rejecting this formula in future relations with El Salvador, where Mauricio Fumes was recently elected president.
At present, El Salvador still has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but these will evaporate quickly when Fumes’ new FMNL government comes to power on June 1 and he finds himself confronted with a dilemma to chose between Beijing and Taipei.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) briefly saw the light on March 19, when in response to questions in the legislature he said that he would favor dual recognition. However, the next day the rug was pulled from under him by Ma, who said that dual recognition was “unrealistic” and that it “would create more problems than it would solve.”
Ma is apparently still relying on his “diplomatic truce” with China and clings to the wishful thinking that his rapprochement with Beijing will bring Taiwan international space. The fact of the matter is that Ma’s policies are driving Taiwan more and more into international diplomatic isolation — and into the arms of a repressive China.
Ma needs to realize that his approach is as detrimental to Taiwan’s international space as Chiang’s was four decades ago. If Taiwan wants to break out of the international isolation imposed on the nation by Beijing and the KMT and its heirs, then it needs to do some creative thinking.
History shows that if a people want their nation to be recognized internationally, they need to make their case to the international community. This is what my country, the Netherlands, did in the 16th century when it threw off the repressive yoke of the Spanish Empire. It is what the American settlers did in 1776 when they rejected the authoritarian rule of Britain’s King George III. It is what East Timor did when it rejected Indonesian rule.
It must be emphasized that in the 1960s and 1970s, the US and other Western nations did not break with the then KMT regime because it represented “Taiwan.” Diplomatic ties were severed because the KMT government still claimed to represent “all of China.” In view of the ascendance of the People’s Republic of China in the 1960s and 1970s, this had become an untenable position.
Adopting a “dual recognition” approach is still the most rational and reasonable approach. In fact it is the only solution that would guarantee Taiwan’s continued existence as a free and democratic nation.
This can be done peacefully by emphasizing to China that it is in its own interest to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, instead of perpetuating the tail end of a Chinese Civil War in which the Taiwanese had no part. The end result would be very much like Canada and the US coexisting peacefully in spite of the hostility that existed at the foundation of the US when they took diverging paths.
At the same time, the West needs to break out of the stranglehold of the outmoded “one China” policy. It needs to move toward a concept that affirms Taiwan’s right to make a free and democratic decision on its future, and its right to be a full and equal member of the international community in accordance with the basic principle of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.
Gerrit van der Wees is the editor of Taiwan Communique, a publication based in Washington.