Oct 4, 2011

Bowing to Chinese pressure

Taiwan goes by many names. Sometimes it is "Taiwan, Province of China" (at the IMF), sometimes it is "Taipei,China" (without any space, at the WTO), or "Chinese Taipei" (at the WHO and the World Baseball Classic). The reason behind this cacophony is Chinese pressure. China thinks Taiwan belongs to China, hence it disapproves every attempt by Taiwan to join international events and ends up forcing everyone to use a modified country name.

Bowing to Chinese pressure is now the norm. The World Bank provides no data for Taiwan, even though the IMF does. Costa Rica and Malawi are the last two countries to have cut formal ties with Taiwan. South Africa failed to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama who was supposed to attend Desmond Tutu's birthday. The reason is China thinks the Dalai Lama is dangerous. We have now reached the level where two Nobel Peace laureates who are beacons of humanity cannot get together because of Chinese pressure.

There are two reasons for the bowing. The first is fear of armed conflict. If the US doesn't speak up it's because it fears China will invade Taiwan and what would follow would make the Iraq war look like a mere skirmish. Obama did sell weapons to Taiwan though. This will surely come with economic consequences. Which brings me to the second reason for bowing: economic ties. Breaking ties with China is like saying no to growth. But, as a trade union leader in South Africa puts it best: “Even though China is our biggest trading partner, we should not exchange our morality for dollars or yuan,” (source NY Times).

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