United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 8, 2016
Executive Summary: We would remind the DPP that as the ruling party, it must behave in a mature and rational manner. It must be responsible for its actions. Since the DPP persists in provoking Beijing, it should cease acting like the injured party, and accusing the other side of "making trouble for Taiwan". That merely proves that the DPP is a paper tiger. A responsible government do not wage cross-Strait diplomatic war for domestic political consumption. That does Taiwan no good at all.
After an interminable wait, the World Health Organization has finally issued Taipei an invitation to the World Health Assembly (WHA). Unlike previous years however, this year's invitation includes an explicit reference to UN Resolution 2758 – the "one China principle". Also the invitation is addressed to the current Minister Huang Chiang Ping-hui, rather than the incoming Minister Lin Chou-yan. The registration deadline is just one day away. How will the incoming government respond?
The new government has only two ways to respond to this prickly invitation. The first is to swallow it, thorns and all. The second is to spit it out. If it chooses to swallow, so that it may take part in an international event and be heard, it must reluctantly accept the "one China principle". When it arrives at the General Assembly, it will have the opportunity to deliver a speech, enabling other countries to understand Taiwan's health care accomplishments. Non-governmental organizations may even be able to protest Beijing's pressure from the sidelines. But if it chooses to spit it out, if it considers the invitation intolerable, the drama will draw to an early close. There will be no international debut, no protest in the international spotlight. There will only be protests here at home, making this the most passive of all responses.
On balance, the former is undoubtedly preferable, because one can at least do battle and confront Beijing. The problem is that once one has swallowed the thorn, one faces other unpredictable variables. These variables depend on three key dates. The first is the registration deadline, July 9. The second is May 20, when the new government takes office. The third is May 23, when the World Health Assembly convenes.
The WHO sent an invitation to Chiang Ping-huang, the Ma government's official representative. It is hard to fault this as in any way improper. Taipei expected to receive a formal invitation on the 8th. But the WHA registration deadline is the 9th. That allows the government only one day to prepare, or request that the invitation be offered to Lin Chou-yan instead. If the WHO refuses to invite Lin Chou-yan, arguing that he is not Health and Welfare Minister yet, and refuses to allow him to attend, Taipei will get an embarrassing cold shoulder.
The WHA may not respond immediately. It may wait until May 20 to see how Tsai responds to the 1992 Consensus at her inauguration, before making a decision. If Tsai's interpretation of cross-Strait relations satisfies Beijing, Lin Chou-yan may be allowed to attend. Otherwise the WHA is likely to abide by UN Resolution 2758, and withdraw its invitation. Since the convening of the General Assembly is only three days away, the new government will have almost no time to react.
This invitation was so tardy, the timing was so close, and included the "one China" provision, that it makes Beijing's concerns crystal clear. The titles for our nation and our attendee were unchanged this time around. This may be the “good will” that Mainland Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang spoke of. But his real focus was the next sentence: “If the political foundation for cross-Strait relations is destroyed, the above arrangement will no longer be sustainable”. In short, whether Lin Chou-yan may attend, depends on whether Tsai honors the 1992 Consensus as the political foundation for cross-Strait relations.
Is Tsai Ing-wen's new government willing to forgo attendance at the WHA under the premise of "one China"? Is Tsai unwilling to change her inaugural speech in response to intimidation from Beijing? Onlookers may may not understand such a decision. To the general public, attending one less international conference may not seem like a big deal. The problem is, igniting this WHA fuse will touch off a string of international and diplomatic explosions. They will include Mainland tourism to Taiwan and cross-Strait economic and cultural exchanges. The impact will arrive in waves. By then, clashes will no longer be limited to high officials trading blows from a distance. They will affect the public directly and substantively. They will lead to frustration and disappointment. For the new government, this is a pricklier problem.
If the DPP is fighting for Taiwan's dignity, it deserves our support. But if the DPP lacks caution and moderation, if it is hysterical and provocative, if it is blind to the consequences, the result could be an even greater loss of dignity. Is the WHO invitation, which takes a highlighter to the "one China principle", not such an example?
We would remind the DPP that as the ruling party, it must behave in a mature and rational manner. It must be responsible for its actions. Since the DPP persists in provoking Beijing, it should cease acting like the injured party, and accusing the other side of "making trouble for Taiwan". That merely proves that the DPP is a paper tiger. A responsible government do not wage cross-Strait diplomatic war for domestic political consumption. That does Taiwan no good at all.