The historically complex region we now know as Taiwan was once a colony of Japan, which was relinquished by the country after Japan’s WWII surrender in 1945. Handed over to China by US forces, the island received a seat on the UN security council alongside the US, the Soviet Union, Britain and France, an honor it received for being the first UN nation to be attacked by an axis power.
This influential position became awkward four years later after the Chinese civil war. Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-Shek lost the war to Communist forces and fled to the island, and a 20- year period began in which the Nationalist government of the island (then called the Republic of China) held a UN Security Council seat while China was closed out of the world body altogether.
Until 1975, Chiang held onto hopes of retaking China, and continually rejected a two-state solution in which the communist People’s Republic of China would hold Security Council seat while Chiang’s government would continue to hold onto the island (then called Taiwan or Formosa). Despite Chiang’s rejections of this option, the UN passed a resolution in 1971 that passed the seat to the People’s Republic.
Since that year, Beijing has aggressively promoted a “one-China” policy, which rejects the independent status of Taiwan and pressures the world community to consider Taiwan a part of China. China has block Taiwan’s participation in the UN and taken action against entities that reject or ignore the one-China position.
This week, the UN body will convene in New York. And this time Taiwan will not push for membership, as per custom. Instead, the island will be sending two ministers (digital and environmental protection) who will promote adherence to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, though they will not be able to participate in the Assembly itself. This is part of Taiwan’s ongoing and growing effort to present itself as a responsible stakeholder in world affairs.
Despite its past history of martial law and brutality, Taiwan is embracing its new profile as a defender of human rights. In fact, a sharp contrast is beginning to develop between Taiwan’s responsible reputation and China’s increasingly authoritarian government in which citizens cannot vote, speech is restricted, and Muslims have been detained in camps.
Though the UN continues to officially ignore Taiwan, and China continues its efforts to restrict Taiwan’s presence and influence on the world stage, a growing chorus of voices are recognizing Taiwan’s efforts to contribute to the world community. Follow us as we observe the proceedings of the UN assembly and in the meantime, learn more here and also here.