In the last few weeks, Taiwan has mounted a campaign to be admitted to
membership in the United Nations. Although it has roughly 23 million
people, the greatest percentage of whose descendants arrived from mainland
China during antiquity, and leads a more than reasonably free and
democratic life, its chances of succeeding are, well, nil. The present
sway that the People's Republic of China--economic and political-- holds
over almost everyone makes it impossible for the principle of
self-determination to be acknowledged in this case. This is a terrible
injustice since it is a model of a decent society, evolved (like South
Korea) from a bullying one, and is an example to other such countries in
Southeast and East Asia. But the clamp that Beijing puts on others is most
heavily pressed here. The P.R.C. is extremely tenacious and, let's face
it, could send missiles across the Formosa Straits and no one would lift a
I don't like to give up on a just cause. But in this world even the people
who think themselves most idealistic are ready to suborn the rights of
nations to the quite ugly idea of calm. The calm of other peoples'
indignities. This, alas, is the destiny of Taiwan, and not even George
Bush will raise his rusty voice on behalf of the 23 million people who do
not think of themselves as subjects of the P.R.C. which is exactly how the
Communist Party thinks of them.
The self-determination movement is not animated by folly. It makes no
claims on the mainland and certainly doesn't challenge its rule on the
mainland. What this movement wants is recognition that 23 million people
cannot be represented by a government which is historically alien and
I have a suggestion--giving up the fight is not my way--and here it is:
Without giving up its ultimate ambitions for U.N. membership, it should
apply for observer status in the world organization. Like the Palestine
Liberation Organization which, unlike Taiwan, rules no territory, commands
no popular consensus, represents no coherent principles, has no economy,
but struts around the world with embassies and ambassadors and
plenipotentiaries and the usual bull-shit of diplomacy. Moreover, it
actually speaks before the General Assembly and the Security Council and is
represented here, there and everywhere in international organizations.
It is actually a lie that the P.L.O. has all these rights, none of which is
passed onto the dazed people it purports to represent.
There are many of these grotesqueries in U.N. structure. "Realism" is how
they are characterized. But if Taiwan can't even have U.N. observer status
--what with its exemplary present (politically, economically and in terms of
social progress)--the U.N. is a fraud. Here's one opportunity to show that
it might just be that or only that.