The Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, D.C. convened a panel discussion called “International Organizations and Taiwan” which explored the uncertain international status of Taiwan. The event was moderated by Richard Bush, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the defacto United States Embassy in Taipei.
Richard Bush opened the panel discussion with some of his own remarks. Taiwan’s status disadvantages it in numerous ways including become a refuge for international criminals because of limited extradition agreements.
Bush said: “Now we all understand why Taiwan doesn’t participate in the work of international organizations, and it’s China. This issue of Taiwan’s role in international organizations is part of a continuing struggle over which government–the PRC or the ROC–will represent the state called China in the international system. Also, in more recent years, China has worried that Taiwan’s desire for international participation is part of a plot to create a Taiwan state totally separate from China.”
Professor Lee Wei-chin from Wake Forest University spoke next. Lee qualified his remarks by saying his primary source for information was from the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Republic of China in-exile.
Lee said that sometimes Taiwan is classified as a “customs territory” and other times as a state. Lee reviewed the various names applied to the island; Taiwan, Republic of China, Taipei China, and Chinese Taipei. Lee did not mention Formosa but said, “Taiwan deserves to be part of the international community.”
Lee detailed an extensive list of international organizations that extend some form of participation to Taiwan but noted the lack of recognized statehood prevented full participation and even restricted dispute resolution opportunities.
Professor Sandy Yu-lan Yeh from the Central Police University in Taiwan spoke next. Ms. Yeh addressed the problem of international crime on the island as a result of Taiwan’s unresolved status.
Yeh called Taiwan a “safe haven for foreign outlaws” because of a lack of bilateral or multilateral extradition agreements. Yeh said China forced Taiwan out of Interpol in 1984 after more than two decades as a member of the international police organization.
Yeh said Taiwan was caught up in the world of international trafficking in women for sex and that more human trafficking could be expected under Taiwan’s unresolved status.
Professor Jacques deLisle from University of Pennsylvania Law School. The law school professor blamed the “one China” references by diplomats and Ma Ying-jeou’s recent “Mainland” talk as setbacks on the pathway to sovereignty for Taiwan.
A review of the Chinese civil war that left the Republic of China exiled on Taiwan followed and then the law professor noted former ROC President Chen Sui-bian’s appeal to a U.S. military court over his conviction in Taiwan for corruption. Chen’s argument was “Taiwan has been under U.S. occupation, that the U.S. is the leader of the postwar occupation and it never ended and that throws Taiwan into limbo.”
The San Francisco Peace Treaty makes Taiwan’s status “incredibly complex” and leads to a view of Taiwan as an example of “incomplete decolonization” explained the law school professor.
The topic of “Self-determination” was next which raised a question: “Is there a people of Taiwan, a distinct people of Taiwan?” Jacques deLisle then noted, “Ma of course has gone back more to talk about the common Chineseness on both sides of the strait and this all speaks to the issue.”
The Pennsylvania scholar summed it up, “Taiwan is being hurt by being excluded.”
Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International studies was the final panelist. Glaser spoke about ROC’s dollar diplomacy and Ma Ying-jeou’s recognition of the problems that creates. Glaser said of Ma, “He recognized that foreign assistance that was aimed at wooing allies from Beijing was promoting corruption in the countries that were receiving assistance and it was harming Taiwan’s international image.”
Glaser was critical of Ma Ying-jeou’s foreign policy approach. Glaser said, “China has not only withheld support for further expansion of Taiwan’s international space, it has also continued longstanding efforts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space.”
Glaser closed her remarks, “Taipei continues to face very difficult challenges in its efforts to enhance its role in participation in international organizations and Beijing continues to prevent Taiwan from gaining much ground.
Richard Bush returned to the podium to comment on a recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine by Charles Glaser suggesting giving Taiwan to China to appease Chinese leaders. Bush noted that Charles Glaser was no relation to the panel’s Bonnie Glaser.
Bush said: Charles Glaser is a great scholar from a theoretical point of view, but applying that theory to specific situations requires a deep understanding particularly in this issue area and I don’t think Professor Glaser has that necessary deep understanding.”
For more information on Taiwan’s unresolved status click HERE