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The Politics of UN Membership

Further Reading And Speaking

Part IV

Almost every country, it seems, wants to be a member of the United Nations (Switzerland being the big exception). However, membership requires support from the powerful existing members of the organization, and the politics governing this process can be complex and conflicted, as illustrated by the case of Taiwan:

It may be a mystery why any country should want to join the United Nations. Paying dues and being shot at in the name of peace would seem to have limited appeal. But joining the club has become part of growing up. Palau became independent just the other day and was immediately welcomed into the UN, once officials discovered where it was. All the more reason to consider the strange case of Taiwan, a poor little rich country eternally condemned to wait in the cold; an outsider wistfully looking in at the club's 185 members busily making important speeches to each other.

Most of these countries would probably be happy enough to allow Taiwan in were it not for opposition by China, which says that Taiwan is not a proper country at all, but a rebel province pretending to be a country. It is an odd notion. Taiwan | is clearly a country, and rather a successful one: the world's ninth-largest provider of overseas investment, much of it in| China itself, and with foreign reserves about equal to Japan’s. It is shaking off its old authoritarianism and, as shown in its latest elections...., is turning into a robust democracy.

There's the rub. Taiwan's new freedoms, with the emer­gence of politicians unafraid to speak their minds, have alarmed China. The Beijing government's long-held vision of a "greater China" incorporating Taiwan, along with Hong Kong and Macau, has become blurred. Back in 1987 China and Taiwan had seemed to be reaching an accommodation, through unofficial talks in third countries. But as democracy has grown in Taiwan, China's attitude has become chillier. Threats to invade the island are being made for the first time since the 1970s.

Taiwan must take some of the blame for its confusing status. Officially, it still calls itself the Republic of China and its rulers claim to be China's only legitimate government. Not surprisingly, this irritates the authorities in Beijing, always sensitive to challenges to their own legitimacy. But Taiwan accepts this being academic. It no longer parades the fiction that it rules all China. Instead, it says there are two governments of equal standing, in Taipei and Beijing. It agrees that Taiwan is part of China for fear that declaring formal independence would give the Chinese an excuse to invade.

(Economist, December 10, 1994,16)

Committed to the high ideal of inclusiveness, the United Nations remains a product of the ideological preference of its dominant members, who often do not embrace the universalist ideal for their own political reasons.


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  • - The case of Taiwan

    The Politics of UN Membership Further Reading And Speaking Part IV Almost every country, it seems, wants to be a member of the United Nations (Switzerland being the big exception). However, membership requires support from the powerful existing members of the organization, and the politics governing this process can be complex and conflicted, as illustrated by the case of Taiwan: It may be a mystery why any country should want to join the United Nations. Paying dues and being... [читать подробенее]


  • - The case of Taiwan

    The Politics of UN Membership Further Reading And Speaking Part IV Almost every country, it seems, wants to be a member of the United Nations (Switzerland being the big exception). However, membership requires support from the powerful existing members of the organization, and the politics governing this process can be complex and conflicted, as illustrated by the case of Taiwan: It may be a mystery why any country should want to join the United Nations. Paying dues and being... [читать подробенее]