Wed, Mar 16, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Ma’s cross-strait policy a limited success: US expert

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in WASHINGTON

A conference on “International Organizations and Taiwan” was told on Monday that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) efforts to increase Taipei’s international space had only limited success.

“China has not only withheld support for further expansion of Taiwan’s international space, it has also continued long-standing efforts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The conference, organized by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, heard that during Ma’s first year in office Beijing showed some “diplomatic flexibility,” but that more recently there had been no major progress.

Glaser said that in 2009, Taiwan identified two organizations in which it wanted more meaningful participation — the International Civil Aviation Organization and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — but that Beijing has not yet responded positively on either.

Instead, she said, China has called for cross-strait “discussions” to work out the terms of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations overall, insisting that a solution cannot give rise to “two Chinas” or “one China and one Taiwan.”

In some instances, Glaser said, Beijing has tried to compel Taiwan to change the name it uses in specific international organizations.

In one well-known case in October, Chinese representatives at the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival demanded shortly before the opening ceremony that the Taiwanese delegation be renamed “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei.”

When the festival sponsors decided to introduce the delegation separately as Taiwan, China withdrew and neither delegation was permitted to participate.

Last month, as part of an attempt by China to upgrade its membership status in the Asian Medical Students Association International — from observer to full membership — Beijing tried to compel Taiwan to change its name in the organization from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China.”

“And there are many other such examples,” Glaser said.

Another measure of Taiwan’s international space, Glaser said, was its ability to negotiate trade agreements with other nations.

As a WTO member, Taiwan has the right to sign free-trade or economic cooperation agreements with other members.

“Beijing, of course, has not encouraged this practice,” she said.

However, “the mainland has apparently given the nod to Singapore to begin talks with Taipei on an economic cooperation agreement, but it has said that it has to evaluate how that goes before it takes a position on other possible countries entering into negotiations with Taiwan,” she said.

“In other words, Beijing has to be certain that the ‘one China’ framework will be intact. However, a few weeks ago, India announced that it had begun work on a feasibility study with Taiwan to pave the way for the opening of formal talks on a trade agreement. If Beijing does not oppose this, I would say it was a step forward,” Glaser said.

There was some evidence China was increasing pressure on other countries to treat Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

As an example, Glaser cited a decision by the Philippines to send a 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to stand trial in China.

“It is not known,” she said, “if the Philippines took this action under pressure from Beijing or whether it did it independently to curry favor with China, but either way, it suggests that despite the improvement in cross-strait relations there may be a worrisome trend toward treating Taiwan as an entity and as part of the PRC.”

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