Joining the Global Village: Taiwan's Participation in the International Community

By Chen, Tan Sun | Harvard International Review, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Joining the Global Village: Taiwan's Participation in the International Community


Chen, Tan Sun, Harvard International Review


Democratic reform in Taiwan, which has been praised as a "quiet revolution," has transformed Taiwan from an authoritarian regime into a democracy in which human rights and the rule of law are honored. Taiwan has been listed by the New York-based Freedom House as one of the 89 free countries in the world, and one of the 17 free countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Taiwan plays an important role in the global economy. Taiwan's population is larger than that of over 140 UN member states. It is the world's 17th largest economy and 15th largest trading nation, and its information technology industry is world famous. It is the world's largest producer of notebooks, motherboards, and liquid crystal display monitors. In the World Economic Forum's Growth Competitiveness Report for 2004, Taiwan was listed fourth among all countries, and first in Asia for the third consecutive year.

Regrettably, however, Taiwan's political and economic achievements are not truly reflected on the international stage. Taiwan is not a member of any UN-related organization. Of the more than 7,200 inter-governmental organizations in the world, Taiwan is a member of a mere 26, and an observer in only 15. This is not commensurate with the reality of Taiwan's vitality. Because of China's obstruction, Taiwan is denied almost all participation in the inter-governmental activities of the international community. This "political apartheid" harms the human rights, interests, and dignity of Taiwan's people. This is surely a travesty of democratic freedom, human rights, and other mainstream values in the international community, and is something that a civilized society should not tolerate.

A Seat for Taiwan

People have often stated that Taiwan has been able to create economic and political stability despite limited access to international organizations. As such, it is not necessary to help Taiwan participate in international organizations. However, for the reasons set out below. I believe that Taiwan should have a stronger voice in international institutions.

The emergence of new issues demands that Taiwan receive a seat in the United Nations. With the development of globalization, it has become increasingly difficult for any given country to address many transnational issues on its own. For instance, mismanagement of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, or the monetary crises experienced in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia, could have led to a transnational domino-style effect. Fortunately, this was avoided due to the timely involvement and assistance of international financial institutions (IFIs), particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, Taiwan had to sail through the turbulence of the Asian financial crisis without any assistance from IFIs because Taiwan is not a member of them. In view of the further liberalization of the flow of international capital, the international community should seriously consider the possibility of Taiwan's joining IFIs, such as the IMF, in order to better equip IFIs to face potential future financial crises.

Additionally, the formation of new frameworks requires that Taiwan has a role in the United Nations. The rise of the concept of the global village has caused a number of issues to become the focus of international concern. International environmental cooperation is one example. The Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force on February 16, 2005, was a significant landmark in multilateral efforts to prevent global warming and pursue sustainable development. The mechanisms in the Protocol pertaining to the control of greenhouse gas emissions will substantially affect Taiwan's industrial development and foreign trade. But due to the absence of UN membership, Taiwan was not permitted to participate in any negotiations concerning the Kyoto Protocol, or to take part in the stipulation of international norms. If the international community expects Taiwan to make contributions to global efforts, then it should facilitate Taiwan's international participation in new frameworks which address critical issues. …

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