Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thoughts on WHA Observer Status and the Nanjing Talks

WHA observer status....Taiwan News reports on DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's comments:
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen stated that the invitation issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) to Taiwan under the name of "Chinese Taipei" to attend the annual World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva this May "as an observor" had "abandoned" Taiwan's sovereignty and "lacks substantive meaning."

Speaking with reporters after the weekly meeting of the DPP Central Standing Committee, Tsai said that the letter sent by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan to "Chinese Taipei" Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan on Tuesday "appears to be a one-time invitation and the basis in WHO regulations for the invitation to attend the WHA as an observer is unclear."

Moreover, Tsai noted that Yeh was only referred as a "doctor" and that Taiwan is to be referred only as "Chinese Taipei," not as Taiwan or the Republic of China. The DPP chairwoman also observed that the letter did not mention the May 2005 secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the WHO Secretariat and the People's Republic of China which requires all WHO contacts with Taiwan to take place through Beijing's Ministry of Health under a "one China framework."

Tsai stated that if Chan's letter represented an "one time invitation and if the question of sovereignty remained darkly clouded, this invitation will lack substantial meaning."

"Any claim by the Ma government that takes this event as a diplomatic victory due to its policy of diplomatic truce will be a grave exaggeration and extremely inappropriate," said the DPP chairwoman, who added that "we do not yet know what was traded to gain this invitation."
Short version (1) it's only for this year, a one-time invite easily rescinded if a pro-Taiwan government comes to power (and the meeting begins on May 18, two days before the first anniversary of Ma's inauguration... lucky coincidence for the Prez); (2) we're "Chinese Taipei"; (3) obviously secret deals were made -- adamantly denied of course -- what were they?

That's the official negative reaction. Let's look at perhaps some positives. The Taipei Times says:
Participating in the WHA ­meeting as an observer means Taiwan would have no voting rights in the assembly or at the WHO. Observers are granted speaking rights at the WHA meeting, but can only attend the meetings and committee sessions held during the annual two-week assembly.

Yeh said that WHA observer status would ensure Taiwan has direct contact with the WHO in exchanging information to protect public safety and would enable Taiwan to share its expertise in public sanitation and disease prevention with other countries.
A very perspicacious friend of mine noted that this is incredibly important for Taiwan. Being able to network will enable Taiwan to set up exchanges with developing nations that want its medical expertise. In South America some nations have been asking for this for a decade, putting quiet pressure on Beijing to tamp down its irrational and provocative anti-Taiwan policies so that other nations can get the benefits of networking with our world class health professionals. Many of the health workers in these nations have been cultivated through programs erected by MOFA to bring professionals from less developed nations to Taiwan for cooperation, efforts that have paid off in increased profile for Taiwan in the world. WHA observer status means little as far as clout in the world, but could mean much in increased support for The Beautiful Island.

A concession here: Dr. Chan, head of the WHO, invited the "Department of Health", an entity that the PRC has long denied has any existence. So it is progress of sorts. "Chinese Taipei" is no big deal, we participate in many organizations under that moniker. It isn't ideal, but it could have been worse. It would be better if we had a pro-Taiwan government in power, one we could trust not to sell out the island, but that's life....

Let's not forget -- there is strong public support for participation in international organizations. The DPP did much to foster this while in office, some of it frankly manipulative, but some of it in response to the authentic yearning for international recognition alive in the public here. This public support put the KMT into a corner, a corner constructed for it partly by previous pro-Taiwan DPP policies. The DPP may be down, but not all of its successes can be reversed or rendered hollow.

One interesting thing about WHA observer status: Ma is playing it up, as Tsai predicted, as a great triumph of his "diplomatic truce" policy and of course, as evidence of China's "goodwill." The reality is that the announcement, which has been in the works for some time, was probably timed to cover up the fact that the CCP pwned the KMT at the recent cross-strait Nanjing talks. Taiwan News has the call -- every word is chewy good:
The talks began last Saturday with an unseemly embrace by SEF Chairman and KMT vice chairman Chiang Ping-kun of ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin, but the real atmosphere was actually set by the purposeful "coincidence" of the SEF-ARATS talks, held in Nanjing at Beijing's suggestion, of massive celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the former Republic of China capital by the Chinese Communist Party's People's Liberation Army on April 22, 1949.

Although downplayed by pro-KMT media, this transparent political humiliation was followed by a diplomatically cordial drubbing by the Beijing side.

For example, ARATS turned down various requests by the SEF side, such as Taipei's plea to increase the flights for Taiwan airlines in "golden routes" such as between Taipei and Shanghai and instead graciously expanded flights between Taipei and "hot spots" like Nanchang and Hefei instead and added northward routes that passed only through PRC air control zones to emphasize the "domestic" character of cross-strait air routes.

Moreover, in response to the KMT government's urgency to initiate talks on a cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), the Beijing side excluded the ECFA from discussion for the fourth Chiang-Chen "negotiations," evidently pending the offer of further concessions by the Taipei side.

Last but not least, the PRC side showed that it treated the SEF-ARATS talks as "normal negotiations" by leaking a draft but unsigned set of agreements to the official Xinhua News Agency and thus forcing the Taiwan negotiators to sign Beijing's version or threaten not to sign the agreements, a risk that the KMT side lacked the political courage to take.

As noted in a previous editorial, the underlying strategy of the CCP toward the KMT is reminiscent of the declaration made by the late Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin on April 5, 1927 in the midst of the Chinese "national revolution" that Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT "have to be utilized to the end, squeezed out like a lemon, and then flung away."
The other day Taiwan News similarly noted:
For example, the touted "breakthrough" agreements that opened direct cross-strait commercial marine and air links both denigrated Taiwan's status by treating such routes as "domestic" through the exclusion of foreign carriers and thus also harmed Taiwan commercial interests by excluding the vast majority of Taiwan-owned ships which fly foreign flags of convenience and by refusing to extend "fifth freedom" or onward passage rights for even Taiwan airlines.


For example, the failure to include onward flight rights in the new pact will reduce Taiwan into a "commercial air dependency" of the PRC, whose airports will gain control over the lion's share of lucrative "hub" onward connections. Given the widespread claim that Taiwan is rich in capital but short on "investment opportunities" (at least for myopic Taiwan investors), the influx of PRC state-owned companies, with the assistance of local proxies, will be able to use the maximum of 30 percent ownership to secure effective managerial control over Taiwan companies and their technology or knowhow in most economic fields, including telecommunications and news media, snare public works contracts and channels for patronage, and, with investments in hotels and travel companies, secure control over the bulk of renminbi spent in Taiwan by Chinese tourists.

The imminent financial services memorandum of understanding (MOU), which even KMT lawmakers have warned will result in "Money Out" of Taiwan, will offer the PRC's giant state banks channels to control over even more Taiwan capital and access to up-to-date inside financial information on Taiwan companies and any citizen who has a credit or finance card, access which will undoubtedly be utilized for political as well as commercial purposes.

Moreover, the obvious "quid pro quo" that Beijing will overtly or covertly demand for an agreement to "fight cross-strait crime" and any grudging assistance in sending "economic criminals" back to Taiwan will be "reciprocal" assistance in securing the "return," expulsion from Taiwan or control of political dissidents, perhaps painted as "terrorists," such as advocates of Tibetan independence or Chinese democracy.

Last but not least, the insistence by Ma and the KMT government that these agreements have nothing to do with "politics" or Taiwan's sovereignty means that no "firewalls" will be set in place to prevent PRC interests from expanding political influence in Taiwan in the pattern of the China Resources Group and the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong.
Far from showing the strength of Ma's diplomacy, the recent WHA and Nanjing talks displayed the utter dependency of the KMT on the CCP. The agreements give China control over key cross-strait markets, ratified by the KMT because it desperately needs something, anything, to show its cross-strait policies are a success. Foreigners who trumpeted the advent of the KMT should take note at their exclusion -- these markets belong neither to them nor to Taiwan, but solely to China. Asian nations may give lip service to the free market religion, but at heart they are atheists. When state-backed Chinese firms come calling for Taiwan companies -- is a telecom deal imminent? -- foreign firms will be out in the cold too. But at least they will be able to fly conveniently from the Taiwan SAR directly to China on their way out of here.....

Much praise to Taiwan News for its great run of editorials lately. You can almost measure the political status of the island by the quality of Taiwan New's editorials -- as the threat to Taiwan rises, so does the asskicking quotient of their work. Good work, guys.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, you linked to an article recently that had a pretty good boilerplate description of recent Taiwanese history (Japan - World War II - Civil War - KMT kind of thing). Do you recall which one it might be? Can't find it searching for a long time through recent posts. Thanks!

discover.greece said...

It is more time efficient to use Google when searching a specific archive post or topic of this blog, just type in the key words for the topic you are looking for plus the phrase "The View from Taiwan", I had more success doing it this way than checking the labels of this blog. Try it, it may work for you.

discover.greece said...

Type "The view from Taiwan" plus "the topic".

Notice that the name of this blog first.

Reviewed my previous comment, was a bit misleading.

Robert R. said...

You can also do

And then you don't have to worry about getting results from other blogs referring to this one.