Thursday, July 07, 2011

Taiwan, Statehood, International Organizations

Saw this heavily armed and brightly painted fellow on 130 in Miaoli yesterday.

I was going to respond to John Copper's latest outburst in the Taipei Times with its bizarre opening sentence: "Liberals don’t like Asians." but the more I read it, the more distressed I got. It was not so bad it was stupid; it was so bad it was painful. How could anyone intelligent publish a piece that stupid? But having done that very thing myself before, I ended up feeling sorry for him rather than angered.

Far different is this piece by Jacques deLisle on Taiwan, statehood, and participation in international organizations. Most of it is quite good. I just want to comment a bit on this part:
There is the strong assertion, prevalent among some Taiwan independence supporters, that China may never have held sovereignty over Taiwan. The exercise of the powers of rule, according to this view, was very thin through the late nineteenth century—perhaps so thin that China never established sovereignty or, at least, that its weak and perhaps merely inchoate claim could be relatively easily extinguished. Assuming Taiwan initially was under Chinese sovereignty, a common view is that it left, coming under the sovereignty of the Japanese Empire with the Treaty of Shimonoseki that ended the war between China and Japan near the close of the nineteenth century. Following the period of Japanese rule, Taiwan was only very briefly and controversially (in light of the repression of a nascent independence movement) ruled by a central Chinese government from 1945 (when the Japanese forces on the island surrendered) to 1949 (when the ROC government lost the Civil War on the Mainland and decamped to Taiwan). According to this line of analysis, there has been no need for Taiwan to secede or otherwise take action to separate from a larger China in the years since.
Lots of TIers hold the view that "China" never had sovereignty over Taiwan, not merely because Qing sovereignty over Taiwan was weak but because the Qing were Manchus who were non-Chinese, foreign rulers who incorporated Taiwan into an empire which included China. Thus, arguing that Taiwan should be part of China because it was partly owned by the Qing is like arguing that Kenya is part of India because both were part of the British empire. No Han emperor ever owned Taiwan, and for all of Chinese history down to the late 1930s, Taiwan was considered to lie outside China.

deLisle's position also risks legitimating Chinese control over Qing holdings, something which should be fiercely resisted since it is a direct source of legitimacy for the current phase of Chinese expansionism. Beijing no more owns Qing colonies than Ankara should control Jordan and Bulgaria because they were part of the Ottoman Empire.

Another argument I've often heard and read: the Qing never controlled the whole island. Until the 1870s the Manchus denied that they had control of the "savage" mountain areas and resistance to Qing rule in those areas, as well as the constant flow of revolts among the local "Han" population, meant that they never owned it.

The piece gets stronger as it explores the consequences for international participation for Taiwan:
The second aspect of the question of what “type” of international organization concerns the entity’s substantive focus. Subject matter matters. It matters in at least three ways. First, is Taiwan an important player in the regulated field such that it can claim that it serves the global interest to allow the ROC to participate in the regime in question? The answer clearly is yes for the WTO, given Taiwan’s stature in international trade. The answer would seem to be a strong yes for the WHA and WHO, especially after SARS and amid recurring fears of pandemics starting in the Chinese mainland and spreading via Taiwan. And affirmative answers would seem at least defensible for international organs that regulate financial institutions and other economic behavior, shipping, fishing, civil aviation, nuclear energy, potential dual-use technology—all areas in which Taiwan is a significant actor whose actions have substantial international consequences.

Second, is the regulated field particularly important to Taiwan? This is a fairness argument: Where Taiwan is being hurt by being excluded for no reason beyond Beijing’s political opposition, this can be attacked as fundamentally unjust. The rest of the world may be hurt as well, but, from this perspective, what matters is the unwarranted harm or risk to Taiwan in an area that really matters for Taiwan. SARS / public health, international trade and international regimes for cooperation on criminal law matters are areas where the answer to this second question is yes and where Taiwan authorities have so argued.

Third, has China wrong-footed it in seeking to exclude Taiwan, given the nature of the substantive issue and the character of China’s response? In other words, has China misplayed this situation in a way that has created sympathy for Taiwan and Taiwan’s position? This is, as events played out, very much the story with SARS and Taiwan’s pursuit of engagement with the WHA / WHO. It may turn out to be part of the story with human rights and Taiwan’s Beijing-enforced exclusion from participation in the relevant U.N. organs—especially if we juxtapose Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Prize and Beijing's reaction with Taiwan's strong human rights record and recent ratification of the long-ago-signed U.N. human rights covenants.

These developments concerning human rights also illustrate one further strategy available to Taiwan to pursue greater engagement with international organizations, including especially those of the difficult-to-reach U.N. system. Taiwan can, and sometimes does, pursue not membership, and not participation, but what I call “as-if participation.” Taiwan commits unilaterally but publicly and solemnly to acting as if it is (or as if it were) a member of an international organization or regime, pledging to live up to all relevant standards.

A high level of functional performance of the obligations that go with membership can strengthen Taiwan’s case for greater access to institutions and regimes from which it has been excluded. But much of the point of “as if” participation is about the question of Taiwan’s international status—the issue with which this discussion began: the more Taiwan can walk and talk and act like a member of a regime that is open primarily or exclusively to states, the more hope it has of securing the benefits of state (or nearly state-like) status in the international system.
Several things to take away here -- our democracy is a crucial selling point of the island's participation in international organizations, as is our importance as a trading state. Taiwan's foreign policy is right here in this sentence:
the more Taiwan can walk and talk and act like a member of a regime that is open primarily or exclusively to states, the more hope it has of securing the benefits of state (or nearly state-like) status in the international system.
The next president of Taiwan needs to be working on that, not on circumscribing our independent foreign policy like the current president.
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Daily Links:
  • Massive corruption scandal in customs exposed. This kind of thing has been going on for years.....
  • Blumenthal and Mazza argue for larger US defense budget for Asia. Actually we could reduce the defense budget but increase resources to Asia merely by stopping our stupid wars in the Middle East and focusing on what's really important: Asia. Fighting for oil is making the same error that the UK did when it traded the sugar islands for North America in the 18th century. 
  • The Diplomat with an excellent piece on China's local government debt
  • Hahahaha. KMT election ad numbers among the Ma Administration's accomplishments the Voucher program. Hahahaha.
  • Excellent Taipei Times piece on the way the KMT killed and imprisoned among its own people. This little holocaust has largely gone unnoticed as a vast impenetrable silence encysts it. Hopefully more people will speak out on this sad chapter in Taiwan's history.
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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! Delenda est, baby.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your idea is an excellent one. It is positive approach for the international communities to see the contributions Taiwan has been involved in and contributed to improving the international communities with dealing with hunger, diseases and clean water. The standard of living and the freedoms that the Taiwan people have is an example for other nations who are striving to become modern day nations.

Readin said...

"I was going to respond to John Copper's latest outburst in the Taipei Times with its bizarre opening sentence: "Liberals don’t like Asians." but the more I read it, the more distressed I got. It was not so bad it was stupid; it was so bad it was painful."

When I read your review I was looking forward to defending Copper's article. But you were right. It was bad from start to finish.

He starts by not being clear at all about whether he means Americans with Asian ancestry, Asians in America, or all Asians (most of whom live in Asia). He ends by calling Gary Locke "Chinese" despite him having been born and raised in the United States. Your typical idiot racist would at least use "Chinese American". Copper doesn't even remember to include "American" in his description.

And then there are all the other problems, like saying Obama hates Asians as evidenced by showing favoritism towards China.

About the only intelligent thing i could find was these two sentences "There is a history of Republicans liking and supporting Taiwan more than Democrats. Republicans have a greater affinity for Asia, which is conservative, than Democrats" but I suspect he just got lucky.

Anonymous said...

I think you have a excellent idea.
Show the world all the positives that Taiwan has to offer and why they should be part of the international community.

Readin said...

" Asia, which is conservative"

And that's only partially true. They're not conservative in the way most Americans are. They're conservative in that they come from a culture that values people taking responsibility for themselves and they are not so far removed from poverty that they have begun denying the realities of human nature and economics the way American and European liberals have.

Dixteel said...

Man that thing in the photo looks literally untouchable.

I am a bit skeptics about joining international community by showing the positives of Taiwan. We have to do that of course but on the other hands isn't that what we have attempted for the past decade? And instead of positive responses we get increasing voices from the US academia to give Taiwan up in order to foster better relationship with China.

Readin said...

From deLisle's article:"The fourth criterion for state status, according to the Montevideo Convention and customary international law, is the capacity to engage in relations with other states. Here, Taiwan has some troubles on the "formal" side. No other country formally recognizes Taiwan as a separate state and only a small number of countries (now twenty-three) either recognize the ROC government or merely maintain formal diplomatic relations with it."

deLisle is arguing that other states that don't choose to engage in diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But the choice of those other states says nothing about Taiwan's capacity. Capacity is like potential or suitability. It is not negated simply because that potential remains unfulfilled.

There is a theory of sovereignty that says a state is not sovereign unless other states recognize it as such, but that is a different theory than the one codified in the Montevideo Convention. That other theory seems a bit like claiming slaves or the low castes aren't really people until other people more accepted by society say they are.

Readin said...

deIsle says: An alternative is to point out a more subtle
aspect of the hypocrisy of purportedly state-member-only
organizations that exclude Taiwan. Many entities that are
not full-fledged, indisputable, separate states have
participated fully and indeed been members in the U.N. The
two Germanys were concurrent U.N. members despite being
arguably a Mainland-Taiwan-like example of at least
temporary separation of a prior unitary state. Nobody really
thought that Belorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist
Republics were separate states when the Soviet Union had, in
effect, three seats in the U.N.

The problem with that approach is that is puts Taiwan in the same category as those partial states and has the leadership of Taiwan agreeing with the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China. What benefit is there to joining those organizations if the cost is surrendering sovereignty to China?

Readin said...

deLisle writes: "These developments concerning human rights also illustrate
one further strategy available to Taiwan to pursue greater engagement with international organizations, including especially those of the difficult-to-reach U.N. system. Taiwan can, and sometimes does, pursue not membership, and not participation, but what I call "as-if participation." Taiwan commits unilaterally but publicly and solemnly to acting as if it is (or as if it were) a member of an international organization or regime, pledging to live up to all relevant standards."

"A high level of functional performance of the obligations that go with membership can strengthen Taiwan's case for greater access to institutions and regimes from which it has been excluded. But much of the point of "as if" participation is about the question of Taiwan's international status-the issue with which this discussion began: the more Taiwan can walk and talk and act like a member of a regime that is open primarily or exclusively to states, the more hope it has of securing the benefits of state (or nearly state-like) status in the international system."

I wonder if this actually works. In my mind it seems better to either ignore the statutes of organizations from which Taiwan is excluded, or at least to selectively break them in noticeable ways. The purpose would be to give other nations a reason to include Taiwan in those organizations, and to serve as a reminder that China's participation in those organizations does not substitute for Taiwan's participation - China cannot represent Taiwan - China cannot make an agreement cause Taiwan to follow that agreement. If things got ugly, Taiwan could publicly acquiesce to U.S. or Japanese demands - the point being that Taiwan may be dependent on the U.S. or Japan, but it is still independent of China.

Earlier in the article deLisle suggests that Taiwan can point out the injustice of not being able to join the UN when some non-state entities are allowed to join. To me a clearer and more outrageous injustice is the expecatation that Taiwan should have to abide by rules of clubs it is not allowed to join and rules that it is not allowed to play a role in making. Anyone remember "No taxation without representation!"?

Anonymous said...

Copper conveniently excludes the fact that it was the democrat, Clinton, who sent a fleet of naval vessels to Taiwan in March 1996 in response to Communist shelling in the Taiwan Strait.

He also has Alzheimer's about Bush, who he tries to prove is a republican loyal to Taiwan by his offhand statement, but Bush had no - ZERO - Asia foreign policy in the 8 years he served as president. Cheney repeatedly urged him to look to the East, but to no avail.

Anonymous said...

It is nice that they finally FINALLY cracked down on the customs corruption, that's been going on for basically 30+ years, I went to a college department who's graduates use to often end up as customs officials, and the horror stories were numerous even there. It's good to see you know, that an administration actually have the balls to go after long standing problems in Taiwan, be they food safty or Customs corruptions.

Taiwan's statehood is never really about the past, it's about the present, the geopolitics. you can make the best arguements in the world and it's not going to change the present situation unless the PRC implodes in ways that are highly favorable. Israel and Palestine are a good example of this. Who's there first is really just a irrelevant issue as to who's got the bigger fist, though hte Palestinians have managed to bled the Israelis enough that sooner or later serious concessions must be made.

Barring somehow getting nukes (and even then it's not really reassuring) Taiwan's future will forever to tied with the PRC and it's not something that can really be changed much. the key really is how we can effect the PRC, who's citizens are still relavant in their decision making process.

D said...

You should do a Flickr show with all your best insect and critter photos. Taiwan has a lot of freaky looking ones.

Those morning mountain photos from your "Northern Cross" trip are really great too.

Karl said...

That voucher program was awesome, according to me and Ishmael and the Wii I bought with the vouchers

Anonymous said...

http://wh.gov/lXtHe

Taiwanese statehood said...

http://wh.gov/lXtHe

Come on everybody, let's get to 100,000 signatures.