Tsai faces tough calls
Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will soon be inaugurated as the next president of the Republic of China (ROC). Tsai will enter office facing a number of very difficult challenges, arguably the most critical being a slowing global economy, Taiwan’s over-dependence on the sharply contracting and financially over-extended Chinese economy, the contingent environmental and economic impacts of anthropogenic global warming, and pressure from the Chinese government to maintain the cross-strait policies of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
It already appears that Tsai will be busy maintaining discipline among members of her government. Rash, embarrassing and damaging comments by minister-designates have indicated that the pattern of members of the Cabinet evincing foot-in-mouth disease is sadly likely to continue regardless of how hard Tsai and her premier work to maintain a professional and effective administration that does not carelessly squander public support in senseless acts of self-defenestration.
In terms of Taiwan-China relations, the elephant in the room, namely China’s unceasing aggression, blackmail and bribery of Taiwanese as archaic policy reaction to Taiwan’s clear and unambiguous existence as a full sovereign nation appears to finally be more visible to the wider international community.
China’s expansionism and adventurism in the South China Sea has exposed the falsehood of its claims to peaceful development in the region.
Furthermore, its conditional united front “detente” with the Ma administration, and sudden switch to hostility and tensions after Tsai was elected, has illustrated how peaceful cross-strait relations are not inherently valuable for Chinese nationalists on either side of the Taiwan Strait if they exist for any reason except as a mechanism for facilitating China’s annexation of Taiwan.
The recent invitation from the WHA for “Chinese Taipei’s” participation as an observer at its annual meeting is a good example of the kind of Hobson’s choice that Tsai is likely to routinely face over the next four years largely as a result of Ma’s counter-productive legacy.
On this occasion, it appears that the US and the EU worked hard to lobby the WHO/WHA secretariat to send an invitation to Taiwan to continue its annual participation, something that is to be welcomed.
China obviously worked hard to include “conditions” which underscored that the invitation was made in line with its interpretation of the “one China” principle.
It should be remembered that the 1971 UN Resolution 2758 and the 1972 WHA resolution 25.1 only state that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) replaces the “representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” (蔣介石) as the only legitimate representatives of China to the UN and its administrative bodies. Neither “Taiwan” nor even the “Republic of China” were mentioned. It is purely China’s interpretation that both were assumed by the UN to be incorporated within the PRC since 1971, a “fact” that neither the UN, the US, nor the EU formally recognizes.
Tsai’s decision for the ROC to attend the WHA and make a statement of protest, is probably the best course of action. She will face pressure from within her party for her response to such a difficult decision, but the responsibility for Taiwan’s diminishment in this case, if any, lies more with the Ma administration and with WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) than with Tsai or the Democratic Progressive Party.
The US and EU should publicly praise Tsai for putting the health and welfare of Taiwanese first, and pressure the WHO and WHA to clarify that the unilateral 2005 memorandum of understanding stating Taiwan as a “Province of China” has no legal or administrative weight or influence in the organization.
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