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Saturday, February 16, 2008

In the news ニュース

Friday's online edition of the Daily Yomiuri ザ・デイリー読売 is running an article on the referendum to gain membership in the United Nations 国際連合 ("Taiwan ruling party backs opposition move on U.N. bid"):

"Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party 民主進歩党 led by President Chen Shui-bian (Chin Suihen) 陳水扁 has decided to support an opposition proposal to hold a national referendum on a bid to gain membership of the United Nations under the name of the Republic of China 中華民国, a formula that would signal a softer stance on independence from China."

And so the ongoing referendum saga (soap opera?) has taken another turn, following condemnation from China (yawn), and overreactions from many Western nations, including mine:

"Taiwan's bid for U.N. membership under the name of Taiwan has been criticized by China as a 'first step toward independence from China,' and also was opposed by the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice コンドリーザ・ライス denounced the bid as a provocative move that would heighten tensions in the Taiwan Strait 台湾海峡."

It's been really hard to figure out what all the fuss has been about. "Taiwan" 台湾 is the name which most people around the world use when talking about this island (if they're not confusing it with Thailand タイ王国, that is), not the Republic of China, or the R.O.C. (though some older folks might still think of Taiwan as being "Formosa" フォルモサ). Apparently, though, the U.S. government, among others, seems to feel that calling a spade a spade is a very dangerous thing to do (then again, considering the Bush Administration's policies on matters such as torture, global warming and so on, perhaps being realistic about things is very threatening).

And just how would applying to the U.N. under the name of "Taiwan" result in the Third World War 第三次世界大戦 breaking out? China sits on the Security Council 国際連合安全保障理事会 as a permanent member, and could (and would) simply use its veto power to kill any attempt by Taiwan to apply for U.N. membership under any name.

And that's assuming the referendum would pass in the first place, for:

"(i)n Taiwan, the result of a national referendum is only valid if a majority of eligible voters cast a ballot."

On this politically divided island, all the opposition has to do to kill a proposal it doesn't like is to encourage its supporters to boycott the vote. The whole "Taiwan for U.N. " brouhaha has basically been an example of a purely political measure being put forth by a political party (in this case the DPP) as a means of getting out the vote in an upcoming election of great importance (the presidential election being held next month), and not as a serious exercise in foreign policy. It was actually China's pro forma denunciation of anything even remotely democratic that happens in Taiwan that has supposedly heightened all this tension in the Taiwan Strait.

So now the DPP has decided to go along with the "Republic of China for U.N." campaign initiated by the opposition Kuomintang (Guomindang) 中国国民党. According to the article:

"The DPP's decision to also support the opposition proposal likely will see supporters of the ruling party also vote in the opposition-sponsored referendum in favor of the opposition proposal of making a bid for U.N. membership under a name that is less linked to a push for independence. Observers said the ruling party made the concession to also hold a national referendum on the (KMT's) U.N. membership bid proposal because of concern that if the ruling and opposition parties were divided on the matter, it could cause voters to split into two blocs and lead to both proposals failing to obtain majority backing."

Or, in light of the KMT's overwhelming victory in last month's legislative elections, the DPP is waking up to the chilling realization that the nationalists are going to be calling most, if not all, of the shots, even if Frank Hsieh (Sha Chōtei) 謝長廷 should somehow win the presidency on March 22.


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