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Self Determination - It's the Law!
The latter figure, growing by 50 rockets a year, should give a clue to the weakness of
There is scope for wrangling on historical and legal claims. But the real question is what status the people of the territory themselves want. Do the people of
According to modern international practice and the principles of democracy, the Taiwanese do indeed have the right to “declare” what is manifestly already true: that they are an independent, sovereign state. It is also clear that the Taiwanese, on the political level, do not want to be ruled by
This is not just romantic nationalism. The Taiwanese pragmatically believe that falling under
at the UN Taiwan
Add economic autonomy, and
It is worth considering why the Chinese are so unbendable on this issue. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the Communist Party of China has all but abandoned any social agenda other than the maintenance of power, and that leaves only nationalism as a ruling ideology. The “reunification” with
Only after Chiang's death did the island move toward democracy and into the real world, by dissolving the all-China shadow government structures maintained by the KMT. Strangely, the comrades in
Definitions of Imperialism
In the modern world, with a few notable and messy exceptions such as in the Balfour declaration, irredentist claims based on ancient history have been unsuccessful in the face of popular sovereignty. There is more to a nation state than a shared language, common ethnicity, or certainly former imperial sovereignty.
According to its arguments based on former control,
Historical claims are essentially worthless. In a modern, civilized world, the views of the people themselves matter most. For example, no British government, not even one as control-minded as Tony Blair's, could force
Although it is not helpful in the adjudication of modern sovereignty claims, history does offer some examples of pragmatic solutions that could produce a degree of mutual satisfaction. For example, if the PRC had demonstrated more trustworthiness over Hong Kong, then something like the “compacts of association” between the Pacific trust territories and the
Perhaps a more exiguous form of association could be developed on the model of the dominions of the British Commonwealth, where the British head of state is also head of state of
However, for all these imaginative solutions, the Taiwanese need reassurance that some powerful members of the global community have the spine to argue with Beijing, to educate its leaders that their eccentrically Sinocentric view of the world is wrong, and to persuade those same leaders that threats of military action are completely counterproductive as well as unacceptable.
Why should the rest of the world care? Last year, the “Responsibility to Protect” accepted by the UN heads of state codified the instinctive feelings of many. The world should not stand by and watch military action crush a vibrant, successful democracy. And in terms of self-interest,
Ian Williams contributes frequently to Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org) on UN and international affairs.