Letters & Opinion

China and US in the Taiwan Strait: No Turning Back?

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states are again divided on a troubling external issue beyond their ability to resolve or influence.

Last time it was over Russia and Ukraine, this time it’s over Taiwan, whose five Caribbean allies (Belize, Haiti, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent & The Grenadines) joined seven others (e-Swati, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Paraguay, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu) to co-sign a statement blaming China for the recent tensions that followed the controversial and provoking visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the third-highest-ranking member of the US Government — despite loud warnings against from both Washington and Beijing.

The August 23 joint statement by Taiwan’s 12 allies contained claims that defy history and contradict reality, including quoting the UN Charter to support its violation — by a tiny minority of member-states — on an issue involving a fellow member-state supported by the vast majority.

The statement also denies and defies UN Resolution 2758 of 1971, which recognizes the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only China — and Taiwan is part of it.

One figure tells it all: 188 UN member-states recognize the PRC as the only China, while 14 recognize non-independent Taiwan.

The statement also falsifies Taiwan’s real status by presenting it as a tiny, helpless, small-island nation being bullied by an overwhelmingly stronger and belligerent neighbour.

It also effaces the lines of engagement and disengagement allowed-for by globally recognized UN protocols and embraces a false narrative that suggests Taiwan is being denied its sovereignty.

Taiwan has not been recognized by the UN since 1971 and isn’t recognized today by the European Union (EU), Group of 77, Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Taiwan has, for decades, enjoyed full self-determination: its voters have repeatedly selected their own local government every four years since 1996, also maintaining unrecognized, unofficial ties with its allies — without interference from Beijing, motherland to most of its population and still its biggest trading partner.

An August 25 statement by Beijing, in response, accused the 12 UN member-states of “making groundless accusations against China’s legitimate measures in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” which Beijing also termed “a serious interference in China’s internal affairs.”

China referred to the 1971 General Assembly Resolution that, it said, accepts that “the One-China principle represents the universal consensus of the international community” and “is consistent with the basic norms of international relations.”

Taiwan’s allies were accused of “already standing against the vast majority of countries around the world…” and now “taken another wrong step by issuing such a fact-distorting statement.”

Taiwan’s dozen friends claimed that “China’s continued military exercises surrounding Taiwan put regional security at risk”, but Beijing insists the measures it took, “including military drills in waters and airspace off China’s Taiwan…” were a “necessary response to the Pelosi visit and other provocations by external forces.”

China says its measures were “justified, necessary and proportionate” and “in line with domestic and international laws, as well as established international practices.”

Taiwan’s allies’ statement referred to a ‘median line’ (between Taiwan and the mainland), but according to Beijing: “They should know that Taiwan is part of China’s territory, and there is no such ‘median line’ in the Taiwan Strait to begin with.”

Taiwan’s friends claim to “uphold the rules-based international order”, but Beijing says: “There is only one set of rules governing international relations,” which are “the basic norms underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter” — and which “has laid out important principles such as respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.”

According to Beijing: “By taking necessary measures to safeguard its state sovereignty and territorial integrity, China is not only exercising its sacred rights under international law, but also defending the basic norms governing international relations.”

It adds: “If we allow these important principles, such as sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs, to be abandoned, we are allowing the world to again be ruled by the law of the jungle,” which will lead to “more reckless…”

“In that situation,” Beijing says, “the majority of developing countries and small and medium-sized countries will certainly be the ones who suffer the most.”

Zeroing-in on one signatory Caribbean nation, Beijing’s statement says: “Countries like Belize have long suffered from colonialism and foreign intervention in the history” and “should know full well how important it is to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and respect state sovereignty and territorial integrity. Yet now they are trying to confound black with white, with no regard for facts… and obviously standing on the wrong side against fairness and justice.”

Strong words from Beijing to Belize City, reiterating China’s longstanding but flexible position on Taiwan, consistently reminding the world — since 1949 when the modern Taiwan island was born — of its eternal will “to realize the complete reunification of the motherland.”

Indeed, China warns: “No country, no force and no individual should ever misestimate the firm resolve, strong will and great capability of the Chinese Government and people to defend state sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

This latest Beijing missive comes after three other US delegations — one led by the Governor of Indiana and another by a Republican congressman – visited Taiwan for “bilateral talks” and encouraged its government to continue defying Beijing, with assurances of Washington’s support.

Since the Pelosi visit, three other top US delegations have visited Taipei, representing both sides in Congress, including a member of the Armed Services Committee promising ‘defense aid’ to Taiwan and entering into negotiations for a formal Trade Agreement with the non-independent territory.

So, is this the end of the road for diplomacy in the Taiwan Strait?

It may not be, but there are indeed other blowbacks from the UN statement by the Taiwan 12 that will surely be of concern to Taipei in the near future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *