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A more flexible foreign policy

A more flexible foreign policy

The decision by the World Health Organization secretariat last week to term Taiwan's application to join the World Health Assembly a "non-issue," and its declaration that Taiwan is ineligible for WHO membership because our country is not a sovereign state stands as one more frustration in our efforts to secure just representation in international organizations.
The WHO secretariat's action was fully in line with the position declared last Friday by a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the People's Republic of China, which continues to insist that Taiwan is part of the PRC under Beijing's "one-China principle."
This action, as well as Beijing's denigrating arrangement to treat Taiwan as the first "domestic" stop for the Olympic torch relay, reflects the PRC's decision to identify 2007 as a "year of opposition to Taiwan Independence" and to use every possible method and opportunity to squeeze Taiwan's international space and negate the reality of Taiwan's existence.
Despite the minor triumph of restoration of official ties between Taiwan and the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, Taiwan's efforts to enter international organizations in order to both obtain recognition for our existence as a democratic state and make greater contributions to the world community have proven virtually fruitless in the last few years.
Besides the ongoing struggle between the PRC and Taiwan, another fundamental obstacle for the effectiveness of the Democratic Progressive Party government's diplomacy has been the lack of domestic consensus since the broad "green" camp, including the DPP, sees Taiwan as already being an independent and sovereign state separate from the PRC, whereas the "blue camp" led by the former ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) sees Taiwan as part of the "Republic of China" and advocates "ultimate unification" with the PRC.
Short and long-term strategies
In the run-up to the upcoming national legislative elections and next year's presidential election, it is essential for the DPP to re-examine both its short-term tactics and its long-term strategies in its external policy as a foundation for pursuing consensus toward the objective of securing Taiwan's proper place in the international community.
After all, if the DPP or its presidential nominee does not engage in a thorough strategic re-examination, the KMT and its candidate, likely to be former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, will do so in a less friendly manner.
The most fundamental question that needs to be asked is the purpose of Taiwan's diplomacy, which should be to both protect Taiwan's national security, satisfy our national interests and to promote Taiwan into a valuable and essential member of the world community.
Certainly a long-term objective is to realize a position as a "normal country" that has its rightful and recognized position on the global stage under its own chosen name and with its own constitution, but the positing of this goal does not necessarily mean that it requires the allocation of the bulk of Taiwan's diplomatic relations.
For example, the appeals of securing rightful representation for our 23 million people by applying under the name of "Taiwan" to enter the United Nations and the WHO are not likely to be successful in the near term.
Such goals have important strategic importance, especially in terms of Taiwan's efforts to strive for legitimacy and justice on the world stage, but this fact does not mean that these long-term nominal goals require the lion's share of our limited diplomatic resources in terms of funds, manpower or brainpower.
We also should be realistic about the benefits of U.N. membership for Taiwan, even if the daunting obstacles in front of this objective, especially the rigid opposition by the PRC, which has a veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
For example, U.N. membership will not necessarily guarantee Taiwan's security from military aggression by the PRC and hopes for international rescue will rely less on U.N. mechanisms than on Taiwan's main allies as well as the broader global civic society opposed to an expansionist and authoritarian PRC.
'No' to 'one-China'
The prime significance of the campaigns to join the U.N. and WHO as Taiwan is to say "no" to Beijing's "one-China" principle and its claim on Taiwan, to affirm the sovereignty of democratic Taiwan and its 23 million people, and to expose to the world both the genuine nature of the PRC regime and the timidity of U.N. members in the face of the PRC's expansionism abroad and systematic violation of human rights at home.
There should also be no need for all of Taiwan's offshore embassies or representative offices to devote their primary energies to these campaigns, which are centered mainly in New York and Geneva.
On the multilateral front, Taiwan needs to pay greater attention and adopt a broader strategic approach to managing its roles in the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, in which Taiwan already has membership.
Although the WTO is called the "economic United Nations," the Geneva-based world trade body increasingly deals with issues that transcend purely economic or trade considerations and extend into the spheres of environmental protection, labor rights, cultural development and geopolitics and therefore requires strategic leadership and coordination at the presidential level, not simply the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in order to ensure that our actual role in the WTO reflects the values and interests of a "democratic and progressive" Taiwan.
Scarcely less important is APEC, which is a crucial focus for contention between the United States, Japan, the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to deal with the rise of Asian regionalism and also to map out coordinated programs to cope with regional development issues spanning the two sides of the Pacific.
Another question of priorities involves the drive to secure bilateral free trade agreements, which is now focused on the United States and Japan, which no longer have former relations with Taipei and are thus unlikely to ink FTAs with Taiwan in the near future but will not be loath to use the process to press Taiwan for more trade concessions.
A more pragmatic approach would be for Taiwan to sign FTAs with its diplomatic partners and adopt a role as a "leading goose" and market to help lift the economic levels of our allies and consolidate such partnerships.


Updated : 2021-07-25 12:10 GMT+08:00