Monday, September 17, 2007

UN Referendum Roundup Redux

As a typhoon approaches, things continue to blow back and forth across the Taiwan Strait...

China pundit Frank Ching, writing in the Korea Times, observes that US pronunciamentos on Taiwan actually offer some room for independence supporters:
It is intriguing to note that, at a time characterized as "highly dangerous" by China's President Hu Jintao apparently because of Taiwan's stepped up efforts to achieve independence, the United States is once again saying that the status of Taiwan remains undecided.

Such statements have not been well publicized but are nonetheless authoritative. In June, in a response to a question from an American citizen, a State Department official wrote:

"We have not formally recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. In fact, we have not made any determination as to Taiwan's political status. Our consistent position remains that sovereignty of Taiwan is a question to be decided peacefully by the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait."

On August 30, the U.S. National Security Council's senior director for Asian affairs, Dennis Wilder, asked about a proposed referendum to decide if Taiwan should apply to join the United Nations, asserted: "Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community. The position of the United States government is that the ROC -- Republic of China -- is an issue undecided, and it has been left undecided, as you know, for many, many years."

While the first sentence, declaring that Taiwan is not a state, may have gladdened the hearts of those in Beijing, the second sentence -- that the status of Taiwan remains undecided, no doubt gave new hope to those who seek to turn Taiwan's de facto independence into legal recognition of such by the international community.
China's state media are continuing the propaganda blitz. A China "scholar" said that under international law Taiwan is part of China (sorry, buster, no way) in the State media:
Taiwan's push for a referendum on U.N. membership is in breach of the law and would bring "serious danger", a Chinese scholar said in a signed commentary carried by state media on Monday.

Since the end of a civil war in 1949 that saw Mao Zedong's Communists sweep to power on the mainland, China has regarded self-governing Taiwan as a renegade province and has said it would use force if necessary to bring it back into the fold.

Strains have been building over Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's plans to hold a referendum alongside Taiwan's presidential election next March on whether the island should seek U.N. membership under the name Taiwan.

Dang Chaosheng, of the Taiwan Studies Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said U.N. resolutions accept that there is only "one China" and that Taiwan is a part of China.

"Taiwan has no qualification whatsoever to join the United Nations under any name or in any way, as statehood is required for membership in the world body," Dang wrote in the article published in the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily and carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

The referendum bid would bring "instant and serious danger" to both sides of the Strait, he said.
You have to admire those comedians in law-abiding Beijing who cite 'the law' in attacking Taiwan.... the China Post, the local pro-KMT English paper, pointed out that China condemned the DPP rally in Kaohsiung, while remaining silent on the KMT rally in Taichung.
Despite the rally's size, the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement that it proved the U.N. membership campaign was not popular among many Taiwanese. Taiwan's representatives were ejected from the United Nations in 1971 when the China seat was transferred to the Communist government in Beijing.

"However, as the 'U.N. entry referendum' situation is still developing, we will continue to pay close attention and undertake necessary preparations for a serious situation," said the statement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The statement did not say what constituted a serious situation, although China has long threatened to take military action against Taiwan if it declares formal independence or indefinitely delays unifying with China. Beijing claims Taiwan has been part of China from ancient times.

The statement also did not mention a competing rally Saturday in favor of U.N. membership staged by Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, considered to be Beijing's favorite to win next year's election.

How one-sided is the discussion? While the US and many commentators hack on Taiwan for being provocative, there is yet to appear any sustained commentary on China's behavior. Yup, think about it: you can have a referendum, and you're a radical destabilizer. Point missiles and threaten to plunge the region into war, and you are a force for stability. I know it's a dream, but for once I'd like to see a major commentator excoriate China for its intransigent belligerence. Nevertheless, as the China Post reported, the rallies received lots of coverage in the international press, and the DPP government claimed that the coverage was positive.
Officials also said the volume of international media coverage on the government's application to enter the U.N. under the name of Taiwan this year was four times greater than it was last year.

The officials added that the international media coverage on Taiwan's application for the U.N. has been positive.

There was quite a bit of sympathetic coverage, including positive editorials in the Times of India (Raw Deal to Taiwan, also appeared in the Japan Times the other day), the conservative Washington Times, and the Taiwan GIO piece that appeared in the Jerusalem Post. Both the Taipei Times and the China Post reported on a slew of pro-Taiwan letters in the Danish papers, in response to the usual bombastic stupidity from the Chinese representative there. If only the Chinese spoke out more on Taiwan... the island would get a lot more support.

People complain that the DPP is being provocative -- yes, well, if democracies gave Taiwan more support, the island's supporters wouldn't need to get attention. And for all the complaints, the UN referendum has raised Taiwan's profile around the world. But it is important to note the problems with the US... at a forum yesterday Tien Hung-mao, a key scholar and official who has a long history of involvement with the independence movement, observed that perhaps the US is thinking of altering its relationship with Taiwan:

"Damage has been caused to US-Taiwan relations [because of the UN bid]," said Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂), the president of the Institute for National Policy Research (INPR), host of the forum. "Recent statements by US officials implied that there is a new way of thinking about the Taiwan issue."

Tien urged the government to take the US stance on the matter seriously.

"Unless we don't want to count on US support in the international community anymore," he said.

At home, the following headline appeared on the front page of a Taiwan paper:

Identity, China loom as top election issues

That, folks, was in the pro-KMT China Post today. Those two issues are DPP bread-and-butter. There's a long way to go before the election, and anything can and will happen, but at the opening gun of the race, the DPP is dominating the discourse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"those comedians in law-abiding Beijing"

Your article is always so funny. I wish Taiwanese can write like this. XD