Another year, and another UN General Assembly is convening without Taiwan.
Today marks the opening of the assembly’s 76th session at the UN headquarters in New York City, with the option to attend remotely because of the
COVID-19 pandemic, which once again promises to be its main focus under the theme “Building resilience through hope.”
As they do every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas compatriot groups are organizing campaigns to call for Taiwan’s participation in the global body. However, unlike previous years, Taiwan seems to be riding a higher wave of support than usual.
The pandemic has exposed countless shortcomings in “status quo” policy. Cracks are opening wider at all levels, from town halls to huge multilateral organizations such as the UN and the WHO. What was once an acceptable compromise to keep Beijing happy is now being seen for the danger it poses. In this case, excluding Taiwan had direct consequences, as the world was deprived of valuable knowledge about how Taiwan has managed to keep COVID-19 at bay — not to mention early warning about human-to-
human transmission at a time when China was covering it up.
In exchange, the world did not get the cooperation it expected from Beijing. Its stifling influence on the WHO slowed pandemic responses and is continuing to muzzle research on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, resulting in reports that read like they came straight from a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece.
Now that the other side of the pandemic is within sight, countries are realizing the cost of allowing China to push its agenda on the world and are ready to push back. One result has been a surge in outreach to Taiwan, including by those historically hesitant.
The largest gains have been in Europe, led by the European Parliament’s expected plenary vote on its first-ever resolution on Taiwan-EU political relations and cooperation next month. An agreement with Lithuania to open reciprocal representative offices also sent a clear message of friendship, echoed by calls in the EU and the US to rename their offices “Taiwan.” Add to this pledges and donations of vaccines by Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, and EU relations are the best they have been in recent memory.
This is not even mentioning the joint G7 statements issued earlier this year stressing the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait, the UK’s military pivot to the Indo-Pacific region, parliamentary cooperation with Japan and more.
China has responded by trying to bury Taiwan even further. Taking advantage of its sway within the UN, it has been blocking any group using “improper” references to Taiwan from attending UN events, no matter how small. As the Wall Street Journal found, this includes a Colorado high school, a French nature society called the Association of 3 Hedgehogs and at least five other groups.
However, these actions have only helped to hasten the deterioration of public sentiment toward Beijing. China sees itself as the rightful heir to hegemonic global leadership as the US declines, but because it sees its ascension as inevitable, it has started pushing too far, too fast. This has counterintuitively given Taiwan a louder voice, as more people are listening, even if it is silenced within UN halls.
“Hope soars when we all listen.” This slogan of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York’s UN campaign plays on the General Assembly theme, poking holes in its stated goals of “revitalizing the UN” and “respecting the rights of people” when it excludes an entire nation of 23.5 million — especially one that has proven it is ready, willing and waiting to help.
Even if Taiwan is not readmitted into the UN any time soon, it does not mean that the nation cannot speak out. Taiwan and its supporters should take advantage of this moment to let the world #HearTaiwan.
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