After years of blasting the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for “creating trouble” in the Taiwan Strait by seeking admission into the UN — at one point under the name “Taiwan” — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) vowed to engage in “pragmatic” diplomacy to better ensure the interests of the nation.
One important aspect of this strategy was to seek admission into “specialized” branches of the UN rather than join the world body as a whole, efforts that, under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), always irked Beijing and, some said, caused unnecessary tension, given Beijing’s assured vetoing of any such initiative. The UN’s inflexible “one China” policy, meanwhile, also made this objective unattainable.
Ma’s efforts initially appeared to bear fruit when, in May, Taiwan was invited to attend the World Health Assembly meeting under the name “Chinese Taipei.” A month later, however, the UN rejected Ma’s endorsement of two human rights covenants — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — which he signed earlier this year to coincide with his first year in office.
At the time, Ma said that Taiwan’s democracy had reached “adulthood.”
Maybe it has, but the Ma administration’s quietness about the UN snub and its failure to provide any criticism of the decision, raises doubts about its own belief in the viability of its “pragmatic” policies. It can well argue that, despite the UN’s refusal to accept the ratified documents because Taiwan is not a member state, Taipei will nevertheless implement their contents to bring the country in line with international standards. Yet, once again, Taiwan’s international space has been denigrated. This time, past brazenness cannot be blamed, as “pragmatism” equally failed.
This turn of events also tells us many things about the UN, which recognizes Beijing’s ratification of similar covenants despite its continued infractions against its own people, but denies a country of 23 million the right to add its own voice to those ideals. It shows us that the UN under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lacks the imagination to reward Taiwan’s “pragmatism.” Ultimately, what this tells us is that no matter what Taiwan does — forge ahead as it did under Chen, or maintain a low profile under Ma — Beijing will use its influence in the world body to deny Taiwanese any semblance of international space.
The implications of this as the Ma administration signs one agreement after another with Beijing is that in the end, “mature” democracy and “determination” to uphold the UN covenants notwithstanding, Taiwan has made no gain whatsoever in its efforts to protect itself against China’s authoritarian encroachment. As Beijing does not respect the spirit of those covenants within its borders, we can expect that it would show equal, if not more, disregard for them in Taiwan.
The UN’s decision is a terrible blow to Ma’s “pragmatic” diplomacy and different approach to cross-strait engagement. The government’s muted reaction to this defeat tells us that it either feels powerless in the face of Chinese intransigence or else never really believed in its chances of success and was using the covenants purely for the public-relations value.
At least under Chen, Taiwan’s defeats at the UN were dignified.
Due to enduring the Kafkaesque situation of having two accidents in 30 minutes, one involving an accident with an ambulance, I would like to share my personal experience. Both cases show the loopholes of Taiwanese law, which is a driving factor for the terrible traffic conditions in the nation. I was driving my scooter on the main road in Taoyuan’s Yangmei District (楊梅). Despite there being no cars behind me, a young man in an old car made a sudden left turn and I bumped into his vehicle. At first, the man tried to run away, but was blocked by other
The pre-eminent authority on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), last month issued an update to one of its entries, adding the term “Chinese dragon” to its lexicon for the first time. The Chinese word long (龍) has for a long time been translated simply as “dragon,” but many commentators opposed this, believing that the traditional Western concept of a dragon is represented by the embodiment of a fearsome, wicked monster that must be killed. It was deemed unsuitable to use a wicked and inauspicious Western dragon to refer to an auspicious Chinese dragon, so it was recommended that a
My recent trip to Taiwan to vote in the presidential and legislative elections was a simple civil duty. Yet, it was still an eye-opening experience for a long-time US resident, given the similarity in political divisions of the two-party system in both countries. As the Washington Post said: “This isn’t just an election year. It’s the year of elections.” Taiwan’s election was to choose between pro-democracy and pro-China. To a good extent, the US election in November would also be the decision time for defending democracy. The strength of a democratic society lies in the quality of its people, who
It has been a year since China relaxed the “zero COVID-19” measures that had been stifling economic activity, but the country has yet to experience the rebound that policymakers and pundits anticipated. Instead, economic indicators from last year have painted a disheartening picture. The fallout from the massive property developer Evergrande’s 2021 collapse is far from over, and the sector continues to struggle, even after the Chinese government relaxed purchasing restrictions in cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai. China’s financial health has also declined as local government debt has snowballed, leading Moody’s to downgrade the country’s credit outlook in December last year.