World News


Why Taiwan Wants In

It may only have been “just another” trade deal but the fallout from the recent defence pact between the U.S., UK, and Australia is still being felt. The agreement has certainly not made many friends in France.

The alliance, known as AUKUS, will see Australia being given the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The move angered France as it scuppered a multibillion-dollar deal it had signed with Australia.

But the AUKUS pact, which will also cover AI and other technologies, has also been met with much angst in China – and once again thrust the “Taiwan issue” center stage.

China was not mentioned directly but the U.S., UK, and Australia have referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had “grown significantly.” China has condemned the agreement as “extremely irresponsible,” but Beijing has been accused of raising tensions in the region, in particular, throughout the South China Sea.

Under its long-standing “One-China policy,” China still claims Taiwan, an island of about 24 million people, as its own.

It has countless offensive missiles trained on the island and consistently blocks Taiwanese efforts to assert at least some form of autonomy, albeit modest, such as being allowed to fully take part in international organizations.

China has always made a robust defence of its policy towards Taiwan but, even so, the mixture of soft and hard power against its small neighbor continues apace.

The new defence pact could prove to be something of a game-changer, though, as it pledged stronger ties with Taiwan.

Some have also noted Boris Johnson’s refusal to rule out getting involved in a war with China over the island.

Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs “sincerely thanked” the U.S. and Australia for their “firm and open” support.

The Taiwan issue was back on the EU agenda last week when the European Parliament called for a bilateral trade deal with Taipei.

The resolution, passed by a huge majority of 671 votes, also called for concrete action to facilitate Taiwan’s inclusion in the United Nations as an observer, and expressed “grave concern over China’s assertive and expansionist policies in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan Strait, especially China’s continued military provocation aimed at Taiwan.”

The resolution goes on to urge the EU to “address the issue of China’s continued military provocation aimed at Taiwan, in both the new EU-China strategy and the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

It asks the 27 EU member states to “invest in stronger cooperation with other democracies and like-minded partners such as Taiwan.”

Hilde Vautmans, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said “whilst China is an important trading partner, it is also a systemic rival that poses a challenge to our way of life and the liberal world order.”

Taiwan has spent years courting support for its case on the international stage and, pandemic or no pandemic, this shows absolutely no sign of abating. It has set up “friendship groups” in the European Parliament, lobbied MEPs, invited journalists on fact-finding trips to Taiwan, and more in its efforts to draw global attention to its plight.

An example of its ongoing attempts to forge ever-closer economic relations with the international community is an upcoming Taiwan investment delegation visit to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania in late October. It’s all part of the Taiwanese government’s efforts to enhance business and trade ties with EU member states.

Against the backdrop of the latest diplomatic spat involving China, is Taiwan’s ongoing attempt to participate in the activities, mechanisms, and meetings of the United Nations and to be recognized as a key partner in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The appeal is especially timely as it is timed to coincide with the 76th UN General Assembly which runs until late September.

Despite such efforts, the brutal fact remains that Taiwan continues to struggle in its campaign against China, whose ever-growing economic, and military might, overshadows so much else.

In a recent op-ed, Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, focused on the issue of Taiwan’s continued exclusion from the United Nations.

The piece, entitled “Reimagining a more resilient UN system with Taiwan in it,” comes amidst a renewed focus on Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. Throughout the pandemic, Taiwanese attempts to participate in global institutions, including the WHO and the UN, have been repeatedly stymied, despite the country’s internationally recognized success in dealing with the pandemic.

Joseph Wu explores this point as he highlights the fundamental contravention between the UN’s founding principles and the continued exclusion of Taiwan and 23.5 million Taiwanese from the UN’s global system.

He writes, “Over the past few months, Taiwan, like many other countries, has been dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases after almost a year of success in containing the virus. Yet, it got a handle on the situation and emerged even more ready to work with allies and partners to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

However, under pressure from China, the UN, and its specialized agencies continue to reject Taiwan, citing Resolution 2758 as a legal basis for this exclusion.

Joseph Wu says, “The fact is, the PRC has never governed Taiwan. This is the reality and status quo across the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese people can only be represented on the international stage by their popularly elected government. By falsely equating the language of the resolution with Beijing’s [One-China policy] the PRC is arbitrarily imposing its political views on the UN.”

Wu says that denying partners that have the ability to contribute is a “moral and material loss” to the world as it seeks to recover from the crippling pandemic.

“Taiwan is,” he insists “a force for good” and that “now is the time to bring Taiwan to the table and let Taiwan help.”

Taiwan has, for some years, mounted a robust campaign to win EU support and counts Petras Auštrevičius, a member of the European Parliament from Lithuania, among its advocates. Auštrevičius says, “Taiwan has a vital role to play in the international community.”

Charlie Weimers, a European Conservative and Reformists MEP, was delighted that the first-ever European Parliament report on EU-Taiwan relations received broad support from across the political spectrum, saying, “We [sent] a strong signal that the EU is increasingly ready to upgrade its relationship with our key partner Taiwan.”

Weimers believes that given that Taiwan is an “important and like-minded” partner in the Indo-Pacific region, it is “instrumental” for the EU to increase and strengthen cooperation and engagement with Taiwan, including at the highest levels.

The World Happiness Report 2021, released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked Taiwan the happiest country in East Asia and 24th in the world. However happy it may be, Taiwan’s continued exclusion from the international community remains a cause for much melancholy.