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Is China Responsible for Bringing down Taiwan’s International Status?

The United Nations recently announced that Taiwan couldn’t join the International Civil Aviation Organization’s annual assembly. The UN group brings together 191 governments to discuss the best commercial airline practices for clean air, efficiency, and flight safety.

Taiwan also learned that the climate change UN conference in November would let them attend only as an informal observer, not a government minister. This is a demotion from last year, when the UN Climate Change Conference allowed the country’s Environmental Protection Administration minister to participate for the first time. Taiwan’s contributions this year are unofficial.

Is China to blame, again?

“Beijing’s not happy with the current Taiwan government; hence one can infer why Taiwan officials can’t participate in this conference. With no official Taiwan government representation, it’s a definite net downgrade from last year,” says Park Strategies senior vice president Sean King.

Taiwan has applied for participation in the United Nations and its sub-agencies since the 1990s and China shot them down almost every time. China uses its 170-plus diplomatic affiliations to keep Taiwan out of most UN agencies, in addition to forbidding those countries from establishing formal diplomatic relationships.

Taiwan wants more participation in international agencies, treaties, regional blocs, and trade agreements to help set rules for the world on issues the country cares about. The biggest breakthrough was perhaps in 2009, when Taiwan’s ex-president Ma Ying-jeou improved relations with China and was allowed to observe World Health Organization assemblies.

Since Taiwan’s new president Tsai Ing-wen took office in May, the Communist leadership in Beijing has moved away from allowing Taiwan to make moves toward international status. Tsai is known for taking a relatively cautious approach to China relations, as Beijing seeks unification with Taiwan. Most people on her island tell opinion polls they feel the opposite.

Although the Tsai government has only been in office for a few months, she will face growing pressure to present new conditions for dialogue with China.

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