Remember Robin Cook and his “ethical foreign policy” ? Didn’t last very long did it?
To quote Benjamin Disraeli, “There are no permanent friends. Only permanent interests.”
Whilst the limited attentions of the legacy media have been concentrating on Mass Muslim i9nto Europe, Donald Trump and of course the Chameleon struggling with the two conflicting wings of his party like Laocoön struggling with the giant serpents, developments have been taking place elsewhere on the planet that could seriously upset the global apple cart.
One of these is Taiwan.
Taiwan is effectively independent as the Republic of China, but only recognized as a sovereign state by a handful of governments. Taiwan has non-diplomatic, unofficial relations with the European Union and at least 47 states, recognizing the People’s Republic of China, that maintain “Economic, Trade and/or Cultural” (or similar) offices in Taiwan. These relations are not inter-governmental nor are they officially diplomatic or political. However, they have many of the functions usually assigned to actual embassies, including the processing of visas, cultural exchanges and to some extent, unofficial diplomatic and governmental exchanges.
General elections were held in Taiwan on Saturday, 16th January 2016 to elect the 14th President and vice president of the Republic of China, and all 113 members of the 9th Legislative Yuan. Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected President with 56% of the vote – making her one of the few women heads of state and heads of government.
It is important to understand that in stark contrast to the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan whilst formerly an under-developed then developing undemocratic state is now an advanced democracy.
Taiwan has universal suffrage under the Constitution of the Republic of China. The 113 members of the Legislative Yuan are elected by a supplementary member system, with 73 from geographical constituencies (General) via first-past-the-post, 6 from two 3-member aboriginal constituencies via single non-transferable vote, and 34 from closed list proportional representation (PR) via a national party vote. This places Taiwan’s democratic credentials ahead of the UK.
However, it is to be noted that Taiwan maintains capital punishment with the following offences eligible for the death penalty, although none of them carries a mandatory death penalty:
- Civil disturbance as ringleader
- Sexual Offenses with murder
- Civil servant forcing others to cultivate, sell or transport poppy plants to manufacture opium or morphine
- Robbery with homicide, severe injury, rape, kidnapping or arson
- Kidnapping with homicide, severe injury or rape
The death penalty cannot be imposed on offenders aged under 18 or above 80 for any offences.
Notwithstanding the retention of capital punishment, it is clear that Taiwan is a properly democratic state.
As well as securing the Presidency, the Democratic Progressive Party, has also secured a majority in the legislature, marking the first time that the DPP can govern alone with over a 50% majority.
Herewith some links:
We are sure that British Gazette readers will have noticed a curious dichotomy between the status possessed by Taiwan and the United Kingdom. For Taiwan is effectively an independent country in all but name. However, with it’s foreign policy and a host of other internal competences subject to the jurisdiction of the European Union, the UK is an independent state in name only.
There are however further curious similarities between China and Taiwan one the one hand and the UK, two of it’s overseas territories and Argentina and Spain on the other. British Gazette readers will of course know that we are referring to the Falkland Islands and the claim by Argentina and Gibraltar and the claim by Spain. We think that the details deserve a little elaboration.
Let us consider the relative sizes of the disputed territories:
Falkland Islands: Area 4,700 square miles (12,200 km2 Derek) Population (2012 estimate) 2,932
Gibraltar: Area 2.6 square miles (6.8 km2 Derek) Population (2015 estimate) 32,194
Taiwan: Area 13,974 square miles (36,193 km2 Derek) Population (July 2015 estimate) 23,461,708
Clearly, Taiwan possessed a size many times greater than the two disputed British territories.
In terms of population, Taiwan is in fact between Australia with 23,976,600 and the Ivory Coast with 22,671,331. In terms of total area (land + water) the Netherlands at 16,160 square miles, Switzerland at 15,940 square miles are larger than Taiwan whilst Guinea-Bissau at 13,948, Moldova at 13,068 and Belgium at 11,787 are smaller. Then we come to the rankings by size of GDP. This is also revealing:
The data is from the CIA World Factbook – more reliable a guide we think than either the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank! The figures (all 2014 estimates) are in Billions of US $:
Australia with 1,100 and Nigeria with 1,058 exceed Taiwan’s US $ 1,022 billion whilst Thailand with 990.1, Egypt with 945.4, Poland with 941.4, Argentina with 927.4, Pakistan with 884.2 and the Netherlands with 798.1 are smaller than Taiwan.
Clearly then whilst with the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar were are looking at minor populations and GDPs but Taiwan is something else entirely.
Communist China has made it perfectly clear that were Taiwan to officially declare itself independent then “very serious consequences” would result. Generally, this is langage diplomatique for military action. In other words, a naval blockade and if that does not cause a surrender an invasion – that is an opposed amphibious landing.
Again, we have curious parallels.
In 1982 the late and unlamented General Leopoldo Galtieri, 44th President of Argentina ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands. At the time, Argentina was a military dictatorship but it is a FACT that the invasion was popular with the masses and was supported. If the military adventure had paid off Galtieri would have been hailed as the Libertador de las Malvinas!
As with Argentina, so it is with the People’s Republic of China. Whilst the Communist Party of China is running one party state it is a FACT that an invasion of Taiwan in the circumstances described would have the support of the majority of the population of China.
In both cases, that FACT that neither population – Taiwanese or Falkland Islanders want to be ruled by China and Argentina respectively count for nothing in the opinions of these people.
Fortunately, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping is a sensible and cautious man unlike the former Argentine strongman once described as “a bargain basement Mussolini” by the late The Right Honourable John Silkin, PC, MP.
The Chinese do not want to invade Taiwan as they have no illusions about the cost and consequences. Instead they are trying to bully the Taiwanese into submission. This takes various forms. China puts particualr pressure on any country receiving an enquiry for military equipment from Taiwan.
Taiwan’s armed forces are considerable. They are generally well equipped and the personnel are well educated, well trained and highly motivated. There is however one weakspot: Submarines. For those interested in the detail herewith the following links:
As can be seen Taiwan is going to attempt to build her own. Without assistance the learning curve will be a difficult – and very expensive – one. A cause for concern is possible co-operation with Japan. This would – pardon the adapted pun – a red flag to the Chinese dragon!
There is in fact an arms race going on in the South China Sea. China is building up her armed forces and the Japanese and Koreans as well as the Taiwanese are responding.
Apart from activity on the world stage, the Chinese try to make their point in all sorts of minor ways. For instance we have the case of 22-year-old Ting Wen-yin – GOTO: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2015/11/25/2003633270
These problems (Falkland islands/Gibraltar/Taiwan) appear intractable. Of the three, the Taiwan issue is the most worrying and dangerous.
The problem is that all the protagonists have the support of their respective populations. There is a naive School of Thought (opposite the Blue Moon Caf’e 134 Fortress Road, Tufnell Park NW5) that is of the opinion that all wars are planned by despots against the wishes of the populace. Were that only true! Sadly, tragically, such is not the case. Millions of Britons supported the Royal Navy as the fleet sailed off to war. Millions of Argentinians cheered their forces.
The Communist Party of China hope that as time passes they will be able to regain power over Taiwan through diplomatic pressure and compel the Taiwanese to settle. Doubtless they have an arrangement like Hong Kong in mind. Hong Kong’s travails however act as a warning to the Taiwanese and make a negotiated settlement even less likely.
It is said that the Chinese are patient. They will need to be! The trouble for them is that the longer this goes on the more intractable the situation becomes. An old generation dies and a new generation is born.
The other huge problem is that in the case of Taiwan, both sides are Chinese. Which means that neither side can be seen to “loose face.”
The British Gazette puts forward a theoretically possible compromise. However, we cannot see any realistic prospect that it could be taken up.
It is this:
That People’s Republic of China leases the sovereignty of Taiwan – legally the United Nations recognises the PRC as the sovereign holder of the island – to the United Nations for “a long time”.
The Convention between the United Kingdom and China, Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory, commonly known as the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory or the Second Convention of Peking, was a lease signed between Qing China and the United Kingdom in 1898. It’s term was 99 years.
Hopefully the UN lease will be for longer than 99 years. Ideally the lease should be capable of renewal or termination subject to a referendum of the Taiwanese but we cannot see the Chinese buying that. Frankly, the Chinese won’t buy any of this!
A normal property lease involves ground rent. In the case of Taiwan China’s financial contributions to the UN could be suspended for the duration of the lease. Since China will soon be the world’s largest economy this will mean that she will become the largest contributor to the UN. This would be an opportunity to reduce the contributions to zero. Which of course means others will have to pay more!
At the same time the United Nations would relocate the General Assembly and all its offices – including those of its agencies in Switzerland to Taiwan. This of course would create a lot of employment and since the wages and expenses would be paid for with money from outside Taiwan would constitute what are known as “invisible exports.” At the same time the UN Secretary General would become ex-officio President of Taiwan. This would be a ceremonial office and not an executive office as at present. This would mean the Head of Government would be the Prime Minister of Taiwan.
Along with the PRC having zero contributions neither would Taiwan as Taiwan would not only not be a member of the UN but would be technically a UN mandate territory ruled by the UN. As such it would have no formal foreign policy. Its consular offices would be UN offices but would specifically look after Taiwanese affairs. The staff would have diplomatic status but that status would be as officials of the UN. As for security and military forces. These could be UN “peace keeping troops” – hopefully with no problems maintaining the peace! These troops would be the regular type of armed force. Generally non aligned nations. Often African. It would be essential to ensure that these were not Taiwanese or Chinese or such as Japanese of US. Taiwan would therefore have no external armed forces. It would however be allowed a police force and normal internal security armed forces. Thus Taiwan would not need to spend the prodigious sums she spends on defence. This is because the UN forces would be paid for through the UN.
The Taiwanese themselves could be Citizens of the UN Mandate for Taiwan. The Taiwanese would have complete internal autonomy however it would be very helpful if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could be incorporated into the Taiwanese constitution. This would mean abolition of the death penalty.
Conclusion: There is no prospect whatsoever of this proposal going anywhere except the recycling bin!