TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An interesting take on the “Taiwan question” was posed by a Financial Times reader on Friday (Sept. 23): If the two Koreas can both be members of the United Nations, then why can’t both Taiwan and China?
It’s a fair question, considering Taiwan already functions as one of the world’s most successful nations of recent years. This is no mean feat considering its size, history, and the fact that it is threatened daily by China.
Taiwan is an economic tiger, just like South Korea, Singapore, and what used to be Hong Kong — now sadly swallowed up by China and deprived of its essential freedoms. Taiwan has been a center for the production of plastic goods and electronic devices and more recently has become the world’s top chipmaker.
In terms of democracy, it is flourishing and regularly complimented on its openness, rule of law, freedom of the press, and religious tolerance.
It is a leader in healthcare, as shown by its handling of COVID-19 and its status as a popular medical care destination. Its national healthcare system is universally praised and also valued by its citizens.
Technically speaking, Taiwan is a state deserving of U.N. membership since it is a "politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory" and is "sovereign," or "exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere," according to the Merriam-Webster definition of a state.
Article 4 of the U.N. Charter states: "Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations."
Anyone who has visited Taiwan will have good things to say about its people, attractions, and food. It also does well in sports, arts, and culture.
It is also, as the letter writer to the Financial Times points out, applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Interestingly, it was formed, in part, to meet the growing threat of China, but now Beijing also wants to become a member. It does so to prevent Taiwan from joining, thereby freezing it out from international forums and organizations and making it an easy target to invade and swallow.
After all, if Taiwan has no friends, then no one will mind when China does attack. The opposite is also true.
“It is shocking that although Taiwan faces an existential threat from China, it still has no representation in the U.N.,” Randhir Singh Bains wrote in his letter to the Financial Times. If Taiwan can join the World Trade Organization and apply for CPTPP membership, “why should it be deprived of its rightful place among the comity of nations?”
This brings Singh to his main point: “Currently, the U.N. does not accept Taiwan as a member because it perceives Taiwan, not as a sovereign state but as a breakaway province of China. But the U.N. has a long history of figuring out ways to accommodate membership for states with complicated or dubious sovereignty issues.”
As examples, Singh mentions South Korea and the rogue state that is North Korea. He also mentions the case of West Germany and former East Germany, which are now united but previously were both members of the U.N.
“If the two Koreas can become members, why should Taiwan be deprived of the same right?” Singh asks.
Surely, he has a point and Taiwan is a deserving case for inclusion to the U.N., a body whose charter makes clear that it was formed to protect peace and promote religious tolerance and the "equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small..."
If not, why was the U.N. formed in the first place?