Why Taiwan’s entry into United Nations must be welcomed and facilitated

Four events recently highlighted the issue of Taiwan’s entry into the United Nations. First is the 50 th  anniversary on 25 October of UN Re...

Four events recently highlighted the issue of Taiwan’s entry into the United Nations. First is the 50th anniversary on 25 October of UN Resolution 2758 that brought in China (People’s Republic of China) in the place of Taiwan (Republic of China). In its legal, psychological and media warfare, China reminded many countries of this event but also warned them not to expand relations with Taiwan, even as chances of conflict with the United States on the issue increased.

Second is China’s brazen show of force with over 150 fighter aircraft and others in its arsenal to intimidate the 24-million people of Taiwan to surrender. More than 3,000 sorties were flown to coerce Taiwan in the last one year. This follows Beijing’s “reunification” policy, “one country, two systems”, “6 nos” and others. President Xi Jinping also vowed to “break heads” of anyone defying China’s orders. This is a radical departure from what Mao Zedong said to Edgar Snow in 1936 that Taiwan should become independent.

The third is United States President Joe Biden’s recent statement on “rock sold” commitment to Taiwan security. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken went further and said on 26 October that “we encourage all UN Member States to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community”. Previously, the Trump Administration had ended all self-imposed restrictions in meeting Taiwan officials and began sending health and finance officials to Taipei.

Fourth, while Taiwan has over 100 de facto diplomatic missions across the world, including with over 50 UN members, these are mostly subsumed under Taipei economic and cultural centres offering consular, trade and investment services. China insisted on other countries following its Olympics formula of “Chinese Taipei” as a way out of the imbroglio. However, Lithuania recently had changed the name of Taiwan's representative office to that of “Taiwanese Office” — suggesting that a new formation is coming up, which could possibly gather steam not only with the other hundred such offices across the world but in the UN as well. Taiwan is now recognised by 15 countries, down from 22 in 2016.

While China opposed any such representation in the UN or other bodies and in fact exerted pressure to curtail Taiwan in multilateral institutions like International Civil Aviation Organisation and World Health Assembly, Taiwan has also been attempting its bid for membership since 1993. This was scuttled by the UN General Committee ostensibly under Beijing’s pressure. With China expanding its influence in many UN bodies, its say is increasing day by day on the UN functioning, with its impact falling on Taiwan’s efforts as well.

When Taiwan occupied the UN Security Council seat from 1945 to 1971, and as it was getting tough to enter the UN, a defiant premier of China Zhou En-lai even thought of setting up an alternative “revolutionary UN”, in vain. China’s revolutionary policies, defiance of the UN and its resolutions, non-participation in arms control and disarmament under the UN and in fact involving in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and others were cited as some of the reasons for denying membership to China earlier.

A number of conditions are imposed on a new entity entering the UN, such as on “membership” generally based on exercise of sovereignty, “credentials” based on the contribution to humanity and “representativeness” based on population, territory and others. In other words, an aspirant state needs to indicate its “universal” appeal and “responsibility” in providing public goods and services such as humanitarian disaster relief, rescue operations, peacekeeping or others in order to enter the UN. The debates around Palestine before and currently on the Taliban, Kurds and others indicate the above dilemmas.

While Taiwan qualifies on many of the above criteria, much of the problems in its entry into the UN lie in the myopic vision of its own leadership, in addition to the highly sectarian policies pursued by China. The Kuomintang (KMT), which lost the civil war with the communists in 1949 and shifted to Taiwan, claimed to be the representative of all Chinese (at that time over 600 million!) across the Straits and pursued “one China” at the UN in 1945 to 1971.

The KMT also followed authoritarian policies in Taiwan till 1986, hardly distinguishing itself from the policies in China. Moreover, the KMT signed the “1992 consensus” with the Communist Party of China that there exists only “one China”. Although over 90 percent of islanders today identify themselves as “Taiwanese”, the above historical baggage is haunting them in addition to having no clear political and strategic vision.

Taiwan is today a bubbling democracy practising competitive politics with a mature rule of law and contributes to nearly half of global IT hardware. It's addressing of novel coronavirus won accolades across the globe for not only its non-intrusiveness but also to the high level of professionalism of its medical system. Its exhibition of transparency in all aspects of addressing the pandemic is in sharp contrast to the situation across the Straits. It is then time for Taiwan to exhibit its model of governance to the rest of the world.

The writer is Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal.​

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India World News: Why Taiwan’s entry into United Nations must be welcomed and facilitated
Why Taiwan’s entry into United Nations must be welcomed and facilitated
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