Taiwan's Troubles

By Carpenter, Ted Galen | Harvard International Review, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Taiwan's Troubles


Carpenter, Ted Galen, Harvard International Review


Taiwan's Foreign Minister Tan Sun Chen in "Joining the Global Village," (Summer, 2005) makes an impassioned and well-argued case for Taiwan's inclusion in the United Nations and other international bodies. In an ideal world, the People's Republic of China (PRC) would tolerate Taiwan's participation in such organizations. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and one of the more important players in the global economy. For those reasons alone, the diplomatic isolation that the island continues to endure is not healthy either for the Taiwanese people or the global community.

Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. As much as the people and leaders of Taiwan may believe that their democratic polity deserves international recognition, the people and leaders of the PRC believe with equal fervor that Taiwan is rightfully Chinese territory and that the status of the island is entirely an internal matter. From their standpoint, Japan stole Taiwan from the PRC following the war in 1895, and US meddling during the Cold War was the sole factor preventing reunification after the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949. They want the island back, and they will strongly oppose any measure that appears to give Taiwan even implicit international recognition as an independent state.

It is clearly Chen's goal to secure that recognition. That point is especially evident in his argument that Taiwan's participation in the United Nations would enhance regional peace. He denounces Beijing's position that cross-Strait issues are an internal affair and contends that a role for Taiwan in the United Nations would provide a "multilateral platform" for resolving those disputes.

But "internationalizing" the Taiwan issue is precisely what the PRC will never tolerate. Equally important, there is no indication that the United States or other major actors in the international system are willing to incur Beijing's animosity by backing Taiwan's quest for recognition. …

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