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Thursday, December 10, 2009

In the news

The Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ has a good article today concerning Taiwan and it's rather "unique" situation ("Taiwan out in cold on climate issue"):

"A sightseeing train stands abandoned on a mountainside in southern Taiwan. The railway in Alishan 阿里山, a popular destination for Japanese tourists, should be taking thousands of visitors every day past red cypresses for panoramic views. But no tourists can get there because the road leading up to the alpine resort was swept away by mudslides when Typhoon Morakot 颱風莫拉克 devastated the area in August. It is generally believed that the typhoon, which killed more than 700 people, grew into an unusually powerful storm because of global warming. But Taiwan, because it is not a member of the United Nations, is only being represented by NGOs at the Climate Change Conference that kicked off Monday in Copenhagen. Many Taiwanese feel that while participating at any level is a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go."

This, in a nutshell, is the situation Taiwan all too often finds itself in: despite having all the trappings of a sovereign state (an elected representative government, the issuance of passports and visas, even a handful of diplomatic allies), it's often frozen out of major international conferences and conventions because it lacks a UN seat. Data from Taiwan is also often not included in international compilations, but as the article points out, this island is too big to be ignored:

"Not only is Taiwan victim to the severe effects of climate change, it is also one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters. Home to a mere 23 million people, it nevertheless accounts for 1 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions..."

Taiwan's size should matter for other important issues as well, such as communicable diseases that ignore national boundaries. Of course, it's no surprise who is behind Taiwan's exclusion from global get-togethers:

"Taiwan cannot participate in the Copenhagen conference as a national delegation because the U.N. does not recognize its sovereignty, mainly due to pressure from the People's Republic of China 中华人民共和国. So it is being represented by four NGOs who are attending as observers, with the Environmental Protection Administration's 行政院環境保護署 deputy minister acting as adviser."

And what is the KMT 中國國民黨-led government doing about this?:

"Since Taiwan was ousted from the U.N. in 1971 in favor of Beijing, the breakaway island has been applying in vain to rejoin. But the Nationalist government that came to power last year adopted a new strategy and is requesting official participation in the U.N.'s specialized agencies such as the U.N. Framework Convention to Fight Climate Change, the organizer of the Copenhagen conference...without participation, Taiwan has to approach individual countries to ask about global standards and strategies...At Copenhagen, Taiwan's NGOs are listed as hailing from 'China,' which prompted complaints from their representatives last week."

When you denigrate your own country's sovereignty by accepting humiliating monikers such as "Chinese Taipei" 中華台北 in international arenas, it shouldn't come as a surprise when others start referring to Taiwan as a "province 省 of China". As the article points out, Taiwan needs to be more aggressive in staking out a place for the country on the global stage because the stakes are too high:

"Minimizing the effects of climate change is an urgent task for Taiwan, which has a high bill to pay after Typhoon Morakot ravaged its southern areas in August. The rainfall reached an unprecedented 3 meters (9.8 feet) over three days, and to undo the damage done by subsequent landslides and floods the government has set a four-year budget of 116.4 billion New Taiwan dollars (¥319 billion/$3.6 billion). The storm was particularly damaging to the island's tourism, with the cost estimated at NT$10.4 billion (¥28.5 billion/$323 million). Much of the devastation was around Alishan, a famous mountain resort in Chia'i County 嘉義縣, where the reconstructed road leading up to it is not yet open to tour buses. Despite attracting 1 million tourists this year prior to the typhoon, nearly 10 percent of whom were Japanese, the Alishan National Scenic Area Administration estimates there will be a drop of 750,000 visitors in total this year compared with last year."

Despite what the current administration may think, 3000 Chinese visitors a day aren't going to solve the challenges facing Taiwan/the Republic of China 中華民國/Chinese Taipei/the separate customs union of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, or whatever other name might be used to refer to Ilha Formosa.

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