Taiwan’s quest for global health summit participation

The annual World Health Assembly meeting is scheduled for May 22-31 in Geneva, Switzerland. Taiwan has been lobbying the international health governing body as well as friendly countries for an invitation to attend the meeting, but still has not received an invitation by the registration deadline. Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei in 2009-2016, when the then Ma Ying-jeou government publicly recognized the so-called 1992 Consensus. Since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected into office last January, China has been pressuring her government to accept the consensus. Continue reading “Taiwan’s quest for global health summit participation”

‘Blood Diamond’ talks disrupted by Chinese delegation over Taiwan

The Chinese delegation disrupted the opening ceremony of the Kimberly Process, an initiative to stop conflict diamonds, in Perth, Australia on Monday. According to attendees, the Chinese delegation “hijacked the microphone” during a traditional Aboriginal welcoming ceremony, as a Kimberly Process Chair Robert Owens-Jones was introducing Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. They demanded to know whether Taiwan was officially invited to attend the four-day conference and insisted that the meeting be suspended until the matter was resolved.

“It was disgusting,” one high-level Australian attendee told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was extraordinary, so uncalled for and so inappropriate, and so disrespectful.”

Though not an official member, Taiwan has participated in the Kimberly Process as the Rough Diamond Trading Entity of Chinese Taipei, which meets the minimum requirements of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, since 2007. Taiwan was invited as a “guest of the Chair” this year. The Taiwanese delegation was eventually forced to leave the conference for it to continue.

The polite fiction of “one China”

The great obfuscation of one-China published by The Economist is an excellent, though introductory, read on the Taiwan-China-U.S. relations. Some key points from the article:

China itself does not actually have a one-China policy. It has what it calls a one-China principle, which is that there is only one China, with its government in Beijing.

America does not accept the one-China principle. Instead it has the one-China policy, which acknowledges that China has such a principle—not quite the same thing. America does not recognise Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, nor does it recognise Taiwan as an independent state.

In Taiwan itself the one-China formula has an even stranger history. It is rooted in the fiction that the island’s first president, Chiang Kai-shek, who fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists, would one day recapture the whole of China.

Among [the proportion of] people [on the island] between 20 and 30, 85% say they are Taiwanese.

The simple and natural solution is to admit there are two Chinas.

A more detailed analysis on the historical progression of “one China”: The “one China” of the U.S. is not the same as the “one China” of China (in Chinese).

The Economist: Taiwan a flawed democracy

The Economist Intelligence Unit today released its annual Democracy Index, ranking Taiwan to be a “flawed democracy”, a category Taiwan has been in since the inception of the index in 2006. The index ranks countries using 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. With a score of 7.79 out of 10, Taiwan is ranked 33rd globally and 5th in Asia, behind Japan (7.99), South Korea (7.92), Israel (7.85), and India (7.71). While Taiwan scored high in electoral process and pluralism (9.58) and civil liberties (9.41), much improvement is needed in political participation (6.11) and democratic political culture (5.63). Notably, the U.S. has been downgraded to a “flawed democracy” this year after the election of Donald Trump. China, with a score of 3.14, is ranked as an “authoritarian regime”.

Also released today, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Taiwan to be the 31st least corrupt country in a list of 176. With a score of 61 out of 100, Taiwan ranks behind Singapore (84), Hong Kong (77), and Japan (72) in Asia.

São Tomé and Príncipe breaks diplomatic relations with ROC

Taiwan’s foreign ministry today announced that it has terminated diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, after the west African island nation severed relations earlier today. São Tomé and Príncipe reportedly demanded an incredibly high financial aid package, and decided to switch its recognition to Beijing after being turned down by Taipei.

São Tomé and Príncipe first established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in May 1997, when then-president Miguel Trovoada ended his country’s relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and recognized the ROC (Taiwan) instead. PRC established a trade mission in São Tomé in 2013, and bilateral trade has increased significantly since then. The current prime minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, Patrice Émery Trovoada, is the son of Miguel Trovoada.

Taiwan is now left with 21 diplomatic allies in the world.

The Trump-Tsai Phone Call

By now, most international media around the world have reported and analyzed the meaning behind the phone call between U.S. President-elect and President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan for a full week. Most of the Washington foreign policy establishment had their hands up in the air, criticizing Trump’s move as a major diplomatic blunder, attributed to his lack of understanding of U.S. foreign policy. At the same time, China’s response has tuned up from the mild reaction from Chinese foreign minister to the Communist party papers calling for nuclear arms preparations. The New Yorker suggested that President Tsai probably took a risk making the call.

As Michael J. Cole wrote in his article in The Diplomat:

In the week since the call, the hundreds of articles written about and interviews given on the subject worldwide have largely focused on the mechanics of the call . . . [L]ittle effort was made to analyze why Taiwan’s first female president, in office since May 20 and brought to power in January via democratic instruments, was willing to place a call . . . Even less was said, with a few notable exceptions, about reactions in Taiwan, particularly its 23 million citizens, who far too often in the rare instances of international attention are denied, by omission rather than design, a voice of their own, as if all of them were little more than insentient subjects to the implacable waves of history or the dictates of decisionmakers in Washington and Beijing.

Continue reading “The Trump-Tsai Phone Call”