I read recently that Japanese aid to St Lucia is to be reduced by at least 50% this year due to the global economic downturn, which is a sad, but easily understandable, reflection of the reality that both donor nations and recipient nations have to face. It is in the light of this reality that we must view Taiwan’s decision to continue to support its friends in St Lucia to the same degree as it has done in previous years. Friends in need are friends indeed; yet Taiwan’s exemplary behaviour as a good neighbour and generous global citizen is poorly rewarded by the rest of the world. Shame on them! Palestine, a ‘nation’ without a ‘state’ has joined UNESCO; so why can Taiwan, which has long been endowed with a state, not do the same? The Republic of China on Taiwan fulfills all the criteria of statehood as defined in the 1933 Montevideo Convention, namely: a permanent population; a defined territory; a government; and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Although Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only 23 other states, this is irrelevant. It is not necessary for all countries to have diplomatic relations with a state in order for that state to be recognized as a state. Article 3 of the same Montevideo Convention states clearly: “the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states.” Taiwanese acceptance of the designation “Chinese Taipei” demonstrates a willingness to negotiate relations with China in ways that the Palestinians would never contemplate with Israel. Yet Palestine, a non-existent state, or at least a state without a universally defined homeland, is a member of UNESCO. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Palestine or the Palestinians; it’s the screaming hypocrisy that rankles. Chinese Taipei is the designated name used by the international community – in accordance with an agreement reached between Mainland China (PRC) and Taiwan (ROC) —when Taiwan participates in international forums such as the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Asian Games, FIFA World Cup and the World Trade Organization, etc.. The use of the term Chinese Taipei satisfies the ambiguity regarding the political status of Taiwan. The PRC opposes the use of the official name “Republic of China” or the common name “Taiwan” for the ROC because it would imply Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state, while the ROC opposes the use of the designation “Taiwan, China” because it would imply Taiwan’s status as subordinate to the PRC. The use of the name of the capital of Taiwan, Taipei, removes completely the need to refer to Taiwan or its status – quite cute really! Both sides have agreed to use the English name “Chinese Taipei”. This is possible because of the ambiguity of the English word “Chinese”, which may refer to either the state or the culture. And there are millions of Chinese all over the world, and most have them have never set foot in either Taipei or Beijing. Though this solution may be as ridiculous as burying one’s head in the sand to avoid difficulties, it does resolve a thorny political issue. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Council for Science, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) and the World Health Organization all refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei. It’s a bit like my hero, Bill Clinton, saying he never smoked dope because he “did not inhale,” or he “never had sex with that woman”— it’s a matter of how you interpret words, but I bet Bill enjoyed himself immensely when he was not doing what he didn’t do, just as Taiwan and China are enjoying the freedom to act that “Chinese Taipei” allows. Chinese Taipei has been a member of World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1 January 2002. The country regularly makes large donations intended to build the capacity of developing and least developed countries to negotiate effectively within the WTO and help implement WTO agreements and international standards. These are key areas in the effort to protect the trade interests and development needs of the world’s poorest countries. Taiwan has one of the most successful economies in the world. It has no foreign debt, but has foreign reserves that place it in fourth position in the world. Taiwan is one of Asia’s Tigers, not only economically, but also democratically. Its exclusion from any international body does nothing but reveal the hypocrisy of the global family of nations. Although Chinese Taipei has been around since 1979, it was not until President Ma took office in 2008 that common sense and global responsibility final came to characterize relations between Mainland China and Taiwan. It is the genius of President Ma that he was able in 2008 to convince the Mainlanders to agree to disagree and attempt to live in harmony on both sides of the Taiwan Straights. No longer would the two vie over relationships throughout the world. Dollar diplomacy was, for them, dead and buried. President Ma’s emphatic victory in the 2012 elections has given the world four more years to enjoy the ever-improving relations between the two countries and avoid the Armageddon of global nuclear annihilation. But for all that, the nonsense goes on in small states worldwide and in international forums. The 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been ratified by almost all the countries of the world. Its major achievement is the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions for industrialized countries. Taiwan, excluded from the United Nations since 1971, has not, as yet, been permitted to sign these agreements or attend meetings. The omission of the highly industrialized Taiwan makes little sense. Taiwan, with 23 million people on an island of 36,000 square kilometers, is responsible for about 1% of global carbon emissions. If the world is serious about climate change, Taiwan cannot be ignored. Although Taiwan straddles tropical and subtropical monsoon climates, the island also has snowy mountain peaks, making it an important place for climate research. Taiwan possesses 100 years of climate data that proves that its average surface temperature has warmed at twice the global average; in addition, the decrease in precipitation and the rise in sea levels are higher than global averages Taiwan’s 2010 Master Plan on Energy Conservation and Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions includes 10 areas of action. These guidelines target reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 2005 levels by 2020 and to 2000 levels by 2025. Taiwan’s private sector is participating in the plans, not only through energy conservation measures, but also by developing new products such as LED lighting and lithium batteries. Taiwan is the world’s largest LED manufacturer and the second largest solar cell manufacturer. Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund has increased resources dedicated to climate change projects with its diplomatic allies in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific. In September 2010, Taiwan’s allies, including St Lucia, expressed support at the UN for Taiwan’s meaningful participation with “observer status” in the UNFCCC. Additionally, in May 2011, the European Parliament voted to support Taiwan’s observer status, as did the Central American Parliament, the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, and the Australian Senate. When I last checked, 127 countries had waived visa requirements for Taiwanese citizens. The EU, being the fourth largest trading partner of Taiwan and the number one foreign direct investor in Taiwan, removed visa requirements for Taiwanese travelers quite recently. When the People’s Republic of China replaced the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan at China’s UN seat in 1971, President Chiang Kai-shek refused all suggestions that Taiwan maintain independent membership in the General Assembly. From 1993 to 2008, however, Taiwan tried annually to regain UN membership, under names of “ROC on Taiwan” or simply “Taiwan.” Each attempt was unsuccessful. Since 2008, as part of President Ma’s genial (i.e. pleasantly mild and warm, so as to be conducive to life and growth) rapprochement with the PRC, Taiwan ceased to ask for membership in the UN. They simply do not need it. Instead, Taiwan has pursued “flexible diplomacy” and a “diplomatic truce.” Under these principles, Taiwan has gained observer status, with Chinese assistance, as “Chinese Taipei” at various forums. Taiwan’s current request for the same status the UNFCCC is thus a very modest proposal. Climate change will severely impact on the environment. It is a major issue that concerns all members of the international community that care about attaining sustainable development. If Taiwan cannot participate in the Kyoto mechanisms established by the UNFCCC to relieve economic pressure from the high cost of carbon reduction, Taiwan’s industries will have little external incentive to move toward a green industrial structure and a low-carbon society. This will have an adverse impact on its neighbors and the world. In 2009, UN member states for the first time resolved to accept Taiwan as an official observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA). This milestone decision greatly encouraged Taiwan to hope that further support from the international community will lead to Taiwan’s substantial participation in the UNFCCC. Would it be too much to ask our leaders to encourage other Caribbean nations to step up and do the right thing for the world’s environmental health?
If Taiwan cannot participate in the Kyoto mechanisms established by the UNFCCC to relieve economic pressure from the high cost of carbon reduction, Taiwan’s industries will have little external incentive to move toward a green industrial structure and a low-carbon society.