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Ahern Supports One China Policy

5.20.2006

Its not often I get to bring the issue up on this blog, but today's Irish Times reports that Dermot Ahern has given assurances to China that it will oppose Taiwan's application for observer status at the World Health Assembly. The Chinese regulalrly stipulate that recognition of Taiwan is off the agenda in order to do business with China. This stems from the time of the cultural revolution when the Chinese KMT Nationalists went into exile o the island. Taiwan was claimed by the KMT (in contravention of the rights of native inhabitants) as the true Republic of China, independent of the mainland. China however has always seen Taiwan as a renegade provence and done all that it can to limit sovereign expansion of the state.

The USA has traditionally acted as guarantor of the sovereignty of Taiwan with a series of US Army bases on the island, one of which I happened to reside in for a while. The military infrastructure in Taiwan defies belief. Rumours abound of the degree to which Beijing has plans for invasion. Missiles aimed at strategic targets and areas of northern China reconstructed to exactly resemble bases, cities and towns in Taiwan. Its a surreal scenario, especially when one considers that on the ground the people of Taiwan and China are inexorably linked economically.

Since the mid-90s Taiwan has experienced boom-time and been forced to move up the value chain. Factories have been moved across the straight and into mainland China. Taiwanese factory owners maintain R&D bases on the island while taking advantage of the production environment on the mainland. So despite governmental differences, the people on the ground are pragmatic as ever. Until the KMT got kicked out of office and President Chen began making independence noises. Disrupting the status quo was perhaps not the best idea. However it is guarantees of security from the United States, a position I fully support, that keeps Mr Chen from triggering a cross-straits war.

Ill be honest, I think that Ahern's slavish utterings in the Irish Times represent the worst of all possible worlds. China and Taiwan are not "one China". Taiwan has worked itself into a position of relative prosperity. Its social protection is impeccible, its community spirit is inspirational and its smoggy, grey skies stand as a great reminder to how hard it is on the environment and intensive on capital it is to drag countries up by their bootlaces. All that has been achieved is done against the constant background of Chinese intervention. Its is a non entity, dressed in the names of Chinese Taipei and Seperate Customs Territory of Taiwan. Yet it exists, its people exist and Taiwan is a country rightly proud of its achievements.

George Bush is unlikely to be allowed get too cosy with China and it seems unlikely that Congress will support a draw down of American positions in Taiwan for reasons of Taiwanese sovereignty and American strategic interest.

Ireland is a country that ought empathise with Taiwan, open economy, intensive growth, standing in the shadow of colonial masters, proud of their democracy. Yet instead this government has sided with a Chinese obsession of defining Taiwan back into the mainland. Such a policy is in contravention of notions of self-determination and sovereignty. We are simply standing by so as to line our own pockets.

I have lived in China and it is indeed an amazing place, the people are amazing and the unfolding story there is nothing our wetern paradigm could ever hope to comprehend. Yet Taiwan and China are different in kind. Taiwan is an ever developing democracy an intelligent and unique part of the world. Ireland should have more respect for this country and not cowtow to a one China policy.

Im not arguing that this turn into an either your with us or against us issue, certainly there is room within an international community for criticism of the ongoing shoehorning of Taiwan into the PRC. The state is entitled to its own status and its own place at the international table. There is not one China, there is hte PRC and ROC. Ireland can and should happily work with both and lead calls within the International community for the false dichotomy of either or to be dropped. Ahern's willingness to disregard the status of the Taiwanese is a disgrace to Irish sense of solidarity and a disgraceful bout of self-interest. Self interest which in this case can happily live alongside concerns for recognition of the freedom, independence and equality of the Taiwanese people and its democratically elected government.

Some random thoughts im afraid, exam nerves preculde me from making too much sense.


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  1. Blogger Simon | 12:41 p.m. |  

    Interesting post. I say Ireland is probably the only country in Ireland where Foreign Affairs has no effect in the Election

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