Last week’s vote at the UN General Assembly to make Palestine a “non-member observer state” was a rare bit of good news from a region that often provides more than its share of misery. Besides breathing new life into the possibility of a two-state solution, the decision could also create a precedent for another seemingly intractable conflict of equal duration, that of Taiwan’s status vis-a-vis China.
Palestine’s journey from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” was not easy, nor was it uncontroversial. Furthermore, this new status, which is now equal to that of the Vatican, does not resolve a number of substantive issues, such as Israeli settlements or Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Nevertheless, the development shows that even with staunch opposition within the UN system — including from the US, a permanent Security Council member, and Israel — weaker polities can make progress toward having their voices heard at the international level.
The question, then, is if Palestine can score such a victory, why can’t Taiwan? Tempting though it might be to draw parallels, one should approach the question with the knowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect analogy. The conflict pitting Palestine against Israel does have an indisputable David-versus-Goliath element reminiscent of that between Taiwan and China. In addition to the asymmetry of power between the opponents, the stronger entity also tends to rely on historical (and in Israel’s case, religious) “right” to claim parts or the entirety of another people’s territory.
That said, there are also substantial differences, including the decision by Taiwanese not to resort to force or terrorism against the stronger opponent, as well as the tremendous influence that China has over UN members — something that cannot be said of Israel, with its much smaller economy. More significantly, while some Israeli politicians like former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is angling for a comeback in next year’s election, have stated their support for Palestine’s new status at the UN and a two-state solution, the latter outcome is exactly what Beijing does not want to see.
Part of the reason why 138 UN members voted in favor of granting Palestine status as a non-member observer state is the realization that anything short of a two-state solution will only yield one thing: more violence, which threatens not only the belligerents themselves, but stability within the entire region, while having the side effect of providing a “rationale” for global terrorism.
In that respect, Taiwan’s situation is more similar to that of Palestine than it might appear. Despite the rapprochement that has occurred between Taipei and Beijing since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008, the chasm that exists between the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Strait remains as wide as ever, if not more so as China becomes more nationalistic and its leadership more paranoid. Growing trade and investment figures across the Taiwan Strait notwithstanding, the fact remains that the political conflict is far from resolved.
Absence of war does not mean absence of conflict, and the closer Taiwan gets to when Beijing starts applying pressure to enter negotiations on Taiwan’s status, the more evident the tectonic pressures of identity will become. Unless we experience a sudden and unlikely shift in decades-old trends in Taiwanese self-identification, those tensions will remain and will become more serious. As such, barring an invasion by China, peaceful unification will remain a very distant possibility.
Finding alternative ways to avoid armed conflict and to address the resulting tensions will not only be the responsibility of Taiwanese and Chinese themselves, but that of the international community as well. What better forum than the UN to seek out such solutions?
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) has repeatedly voiced concern over the weakening cost competitiveness of its US fabs and challenged the US’ “on-shore” policy of building domestic semiconductor capacity. Yet not once has the government said anything, even though the economy is highly dependent on the chip industry. In the US, the cost of operating a semiconductor factory is at least twice the amount required to operate one in Taiwan, rather than the 50 percent he had previously calculated, Chang said on Thursday last week at a forum arranged by CommonWealth Magazine. He said that he had
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), also a former chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has said that he plans to travel to China from Monday next week to April 7 to pay his respects to his ancestors in Hunan Province. The trip would mark the first cross-strait visit by a former president of the Republic of China (ROC) since its government’s retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Ma’s trip comes amid China’s increasing air and naval incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) continues to seek to annex Taiwan. Ma’s trip could be
The International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued on Friday last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin delighted Uighurs, as Putin’s today signals Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) tomorrow. The crimes committed by Xi are many times more serious than what Putin has been accused of. Putin has caused more than 8 million people to flee Ukraine. By imprisoning more than 3 million Uighurs in concentration camps and restricting the movement of more than 10 million Uighurs, Xi has not only denied them the opportunity to live humanely, but also the opportunity to escape oppression. The 8 million Ukrainians who fled
Disruption is coming to the agriculture sector. Around the world, livestock farmers are leaving the land, policymakers are targeting the harmful environmental and social effects of industrial meat production, and consumers are shifting away from meat to embrace healthier, more sustainable alternatives. With the sector approaching a crossroads, decisionmakers in government, industry and civil society need to heed the lessons gained from major transitions in other industries and start preparing. Preparation requires a careful inventory of farmers, workers and consumers’ needs. While farmers are growing older and leaving the land for other pursuits or retirement, the agriculture sector is struggling to