Taiwan is a fully functional democracy with a constitution and democratically elected leaders. Over the past seven decades its political system has matured and it is completely different from communist China. It is consistently ranked as one of the freest countries by the Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders freedom indices, as well as the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.
Taiwan’s economic and political growth has been remarkable. It is one of Asia’s major economies and a leader in the global semiconductor industry. Only 13 UN members recognize Taiwan and about 59 countries, including India, have established unofficial diplomatic relations with it.
Taiwan is an independent nation without a seat in the UN. The main hindrance to it being given full UN membership is China.
In the 17th century, Taiwan became a Dutch colony. It regained its independence briefly before being taken over by imperial China. In 1895, after the First Sino-Japanese War, it became a Japanese colony. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Taiwan was put in the care of the Republic of China (ROC). It became a founding member of the UN as the ROC, where it remained until 1971.
When then-US president Richard Nixon established relations with Mao Zedong (毛澤東), the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was recognized as the official representative government of China as per UN Resolution 2758.
The UN resolution did not clarify the status of Taiwan or say that Taiwan was part of China. It was also silent on the “one China” principle. The PRC has twisted its interpretation of the resolution to insist that the “one China” principle be universally followed.
It is time to set this anomaly right by formally admitting Taiwan to the UN. First, to prevent Taiwan being militarily annexed by China, or through illegal means. Second, it must be done for the sake of Taiwanese and the humanitarian principles on which the UN is premised.
Since the establishment of the PRC in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been falsifying history to justify its hegemonic and territorial ambitions. In 1949, the PRC usurped East Turkestan as Xinjiang. In 1956, it invaded Tibet and forced it to accede to the PRC. After signing an agreement with India in 2003, the PRC started claiming the Indian state Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet based on false narratives.
China propagated the “nine-dash line” through an imaginary history, making claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea. It built artificial islands and militarized them despite international promises not to. In 2020, it usurped Hong Kong in a gross violation of the treaty it signed with UK.
Over the past seven decades, the Korean War, the Sino-Indian War, the Sino-Vietnam War and Sino-USSR skirmishes are testimony to the PRC’s military aggression. As recently as 2020, the PRC has been militarily assertive in the South China Sea and along the Sino-Indian “line of actual control,” aiming to alter the “status quo” in its favor through salami-slicing tactics. The display of force across the Taiwan Strait after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei last month leaves very little to the imagination in its intent to annex Taiwan.
Taiwan is the antithesis of Chinese communism and authoritarianism, and Taiwanese refute this authoritarian model. Polls indicate that 87 percent of Taiwanese do not want to be controlled by China and 73 percent are willing to take up arms to defend against a Chinese invasion.
The UN last month released a report on the Chinese treatment of Uighurs, stating that crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations have been committed in the guise of counterterrorism. Reports indicate that millions of people in Xinjiang have been detained in “re-education” centers.
This is comparable to indications by Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye (盧沙野) that Taiwanese would be “re-educated” if the nation were to unify with China. The fate of 23 million Taiwanese would likely be similar to the 25 million people of Xinjiang. On a purely humanitarian basis, Taiwan needs to be admitted as a UN member state to prevent it being usurped by China.
Taiwan is involved in bilateral trade and economic agreements with many countries and blocs including the PRC, the US, the EU, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and India, to name a few. As the world’s 18th-largest economy, Taiwan is fully integrated in world affairs.
As an undisputed leader in the semiconductor industry, the nation is key to the development of robotics, artificial intelligence, cybertechnology, communications, space exploration and energy conservation. Taiwan’s technological prowess is critical to the world in combating climate change, the effects of which are visible in disasters that plagued China, Pakistan and Europe this summer.
Keeping Taiwan on the sidelines of global institutions is self-defeating. Although some effort has been made to include Taiwan in global governance, it has been less than reasonable or fair.
Taiwan would find it difficult to declare independence for fear of retribution from Beijing. From the violent Chinese reaction to Pelosi’s visit, it is clear that if the PRC cannot annex Taiwan militarily, it could destroy the nation with the might of its missiles and reduce it to rubble. That would be a human catastrophe.
The UN needs to facilitate the incremental, but full integration of Taiwan into international organizations. Influential members such as the US, Japan, the UK, France, Germany, South Korea, Australia and India must champion Taiwan’s cause. China would strongly object, but so be it. It is time to approach China head-on before it is too late. If restructuring the UN system is required to do so, it must be done.
India understands Taiwan’s plight as it is also a victim of Chinese machinations. It is time that India and Taiwan enhance cooperation on all fronts to stymie Chinese designs and ensure that Taiwanese get the status, dignity and justice they deserve as a progressive nation. It is time that Taiwan is granted full membership of the UN.
Lieutenant general PR Shankar PVSM, AVSM, VSM is a former director general of artillery in the Indian army. He is a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and writes extensively on strategic and geopolitical affairs.
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