Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh Snap!


The CIA World Factbook that is. In a recent letter to the editor published in the Taipei Times, UPenn Lauder Professor of International Relations Arthur Waldron shed light on the self-contradictory nature of Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte's recent criticism of Taiwan's proposed UN membership referendum. According to the CIA World Factbook, the nomenclature for Taiwan works this way:

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Taiwan
local long form: none
local short form: T'ai-wan
former: Formosa

Which begs the question (and Waldron does beg it), how can the U.S. view Taiwan's campaign to use its common name in the UN as a change in the status quo, when Taiwan is the only name that the federal government's own agency uses? As Professor Waldron puts it:

In other words, the US does not even list "Republic of China" (which suggests Chineseness) as a possible name for your [the Taipei Times'] country (though we do list "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" for North Korea, which we do not recognize diplomatically). Instead, for decades we have insisted on "Taiwan" exclusively, which indicates to me that use of that name has long been integral to the "status quo."

Given this fact, I would like to respectfully ask the US deputy secretary of state to suggest the appropriate name to be used in your UN application. Or perhaps the problem is not the name, but rather the possibility that your [Taiwan's] 23 million people might be represented there?
Exactly. Enough with the outrageous excuses, Taiwan has explained time and time again that using the name Taiwan is not a change in the status quo, as long as the country's official name stated in the constitution remains "Republic of China". All of China's huffing and puffing about a move towards independence is nonsense, and should be treated by the U.S. as such. Membership in the United Nations does not mean a country is somehow consecrated as a permanent entity. The possibility for voluntary, peaceful unification would still remain if Taiwan were allow to join the UN. East and West Germany did just that in 1990.

Unfortunately the inconsistency that Professor Waldron points out by citing the World Fact Book also exists within the Factbook itself. As Waldron relates, the CIA has placed Taiwan second to bottom on its otherwise alphabetical list, presumably suggesting that Taiwan is a special case or not quite a legitimate country. Furthermore, the description of Taiwan's "Political Pressure Groups and Leaders" reads:

"Goals of the Taiwan independence movement include establishing a sovereign nation on Taiwan [done] and entering the UN."

So one can see at least one section (the names) in which the Agency has, knowingly or not, endorsed Taiwan's viewpoint, and other sections where it has chosen a more "Chinese" point of view.

If the Administration wants Taiwan to back down on this issue because they are worried about China resorting to violence, then by all means they ought to come out and say that. However, for them to suggest that Taiwan is bringing China's unsubstanitiated accusations and irresponsible threats upon itself is not only inconsistent, it has the potential to marr the reputation of the United States.

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