SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
LIM John Chuan Tiong “Why does Beijing refrain countries which have diplomatic relations with China from strengthening their relations with Taipei?”
September 10, United States President Joe Biden had conversation with Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party over the phone. Immediately after the conversation, United States announced that they are “considering severely” to change the name “Taipei Economic and Culture Representative Office” (Taiwan’s Diplomatic Establishment in America) to “Taiwan Representative Office”. In July, Taiwan established their Representative Office in Vilnius, the Capital of Republic of Lithuania through their discussions. Taiwan proposed EU (European Union) to change the name “European Economic and Trade Office” to “European Union Office in Taiwan” and the bill passed at EU Committee on Foreign Affaires in September. A series of such movement (changing “official name”) is the new wave in Western countries in recent atmosphere that they like to strengthen relations with Taiwan.
Since the foundation of socialism in China and depression of the presence of Taiwan in International community and prevention of Taiwan’s improvement in their International position have been Chinese ‘core’ issue in their diplomatic policy. The People’s Republic of China took place of the Republic of China in the United Nations in 1971. And in 1972, it was a ‘breakthrough’ for Taiwan that United States and Japan, both have been the most important supporting powers began to promote establishment of relations with Beijing in succession. Due to such sudden change of International situation, position of both sides of Taiwan Strait came to the historical ‘irrevocable’ conversion. Afterwards Beijing asked the Countries or Governments which have diplomatic relations with China to comply the agreement which those Governments should maintain ‘informal’ level with Taiwan inevitably. Against the news in Washington mentioned above, Chinese Embassy in United States developed an attitude saying “China oppose official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan in any style” as before.
“Lithuania Model” in Western countries:
Marking the beginning of 21st century the rise of China became apparent and the position of China in the world kept growing. Beijing aggrandized their International “Discourse Power” (power which makes the other side to accept). At the same time, difference of power at both side of Taiwan Strait increased day by day. A lot of companies in Western countries began to make investments in China and concluded trade relationship. It means Chinese international influence increased. But China could not stop Western and other countries to strengthen their relationship with Taiwan. Recently, we had a series of “changing name” phenomena in Western countries (including Japan). On New Year’s Day 2017, Japan changed the name “Interchange Association” (Headquarter in Tokyo, Office in Taipei and Kaohsiung) to “Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association”. In May 2017, Taiwan side changed the name “Association of East Asia Relations” which handle administration affairs with Japan to “Taiwan-Japan Relations Association”. Taiwan changed the name “Coordination Council for North American Affairs” to “Taiwan Council for North American Affairs” in June 2019. “Netherland Trade and Investment Office” changed its name to “Netherland Office Taipei” in April 2020. And, as the title of this column shows, Lithuania agreed to establish “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania” this year. They have not decided the name of Lithuanian Office in Taiwan yet, but the name would be “Lithuanian Representative Office in Taiwan”. EU will also change the name “European Economic and Trade Office” to “EU Representative Office in Taiwan”.
Against those phenomena Beijing took actions. Chinese ambassador in Lithuania was called home and Beijing banished Lithuanian ambassador in China who has just arrived at his post. It was a strict and rare measure taken by Beijing to a small country Lithuania which disobeyed. The writer (of this Essay) think that China warned the other Baltic States like Estonia and Latvia not to follow an evil deed as Lithuania and like to avoid the Domino effect in other Middle European countries. However, Beijing has witnessed shocking happenings. EU and America have replaced “Taiwan” as its’ official name. It was clear that Beijing is in a bottleneck that they tried to deter countries which have diplomatic relations from strengthening their relations with Taiwan.
“Lithuanian Model – Taiwan” Supported by U.S. Congress and Whitehouse “Decision”
America was not affected by “Lithuania Model”. Lithuania and other countries were one step ahead of America. They supported Washington’s official naming “Taiwan” thinking of strengthening relationship with Taiwan.
The tendency which American Congress want “Taiwan’s official name” has been nurtured. For example, on December 17, 78 members of the House of Representatives under the Trump Administration made three recommendations about the relations between America and Taiwan by letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In this letter, they recommended to change the name of Taiwanese organization in America to “Taiwanese Representative Office”. In July 2021, United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the bill “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act”. It was the most noticeable point that they recommended the Government to start discussion about “official name” of Taiwanese representative. The reason why Whitehouse could say “we are considering seriously” is they had support of congress.
When we think about why they put “Taipei” instead of “Taiwan” to the name of overseas representatives is very rational and complicated. It is a result of their thinking that those countries have considered seriously based on their national profit, not from Beijing “pressure”. Taiwanese themselves, in the era of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, sticked to the principle “Chinese and its Traitor cannot exist together”.
After 1949, especially after 1970s when Taiwan have experienced “labor pains” of “the wave of break-off of diplomatic relations”, Taiwan has groped for establishment of “non-diplomatic relations” with the countries which they had diplomatic relations before. When they discussed about establishment of their representative, the choice which “Taiwan” is the name of their representatives was omitted by reason that they did not want the name “Republic of China” to trivialize to “Taiwan”. And they decided to use “Taipei” because it was very usual to use the name of capital for countries in International diplomatic stages. “Washington” is used for America and “London” for United Kingdom.
The rise of China and higher presence of “Taiwan”
Why did Taiwan change their thinking of using “Taipei” for “Taiwan”? There were influences of “struggle for authority of representation” and a change of their consciousness of “International identity”.
In 1970s Sino-Taiwan relations were reversed in their international position as mentioned above and “the struggle for authority of representation since 1949” who represent China lawfully had ended. It became difficult for Taiwan, who had professed itself to be “Freedom China”, to call “China” in International societies. Perception among International societies including America and Japan, which were the most important friendly nations for Taiwan, began to recognize People’s Republic of China as “China”. In such context of transition of the International situation, people in Taiwan, especially the elite of society, began to establish their position as a separate space from Mainland.
There is another reason. In 1990s, Taiwan proceeded to political democratization and developed dynamic image of “Mainland” consciousness (Taiwan is Mainland). Structure of national identity changed rapidly. People in Taiwan began to recognize themselves as “Taiwanese” and agreed to recognize “Taiwan” as the place where they belong to. It led to the movement of “official name” of overseas representatives. “Formosan Association of Public Affairs (FAPA)” has been making efforts for years to pass “Favorable Bills (for Taiwan)” in United States congress promoted the subject of “official name” of Taiwanese overseas representatives.
Why do Western countries and Japan support “official name” movement of “Taiwan”?
There are three factors.
1) They thought highly effects of democratization of Taiwan society and can enjoy together universal values in freedom, democracy, and human right.
2) China expanded “Export of autocratic politics” in Hong Kong. Western countries had a sense of danger against such Chinese intention which might expand to Taiwan.
3) Counter measures against the COVID-19 in Taiwan was thought to be relatively high among democratic societies.
We can say China value an influence of America in their management of international relations in an atmosphere that “New Cold War” is changing rapidly. Especially after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, China is bothered with America which develop its strategy about China to stay together with democratic countries. I think Beijing will not step into “New Cold War” with Washington furthermore as you can understand from telephone conversation between Xi Jinping and Biden. If White House would decide “official name” of “Taiwan Representative in United States”, it will be difficult for Beijing to take actions like “punishment” to Lithuania toward America such as recalling Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang in U.S. or rejecting an Inauguration of U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns in China.
China is rising now. Why cannot China stop such movement “the wave of official naming” like Taiwan’s being supported by Western countries which have leadership in international society? It will be an important issue for persons in China who are in charge foreign and Taiwan policies.
SGRA Kawaraban 682 in Japanese (Original)
LIM John Chuan Tiong / Chief Editor of “Min Pao Daily News” (Hong Kong)
This essay was written in the Chinese language.
Chinese to Japanese translation by Arata Hirai
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala