OP-ED: Is the West Losing the Influence War to China?

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Like-minded coalitions of major states are increasingly unable to counter Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taiwan at international institutions.

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As Taiwan’s dignity and regional air safety are compromised due to silly political games at the ICAO assembly in Montreal, news emerged yesterday that Taiwan’s attempt to participate as an observer at another international organization, Interpol, is also “not going well.”

Once again, it is expected that Taiwan’s ability to join multilateral organizations are being frustrated by Beijing, which appears to be delivering on its threat to punish Taiwan for the new government’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China.”

Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) Director General Deputy Director Lu Chun-chang (呂春長) told the legislature yesterday that the CIB has yet to receive an invitation from Interpol and that efforts to participate at the summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November “are not going well.”

Besides China’s obstructionism, what is particularly worrying is the fact that Taiwan’s bid to join the two important summits had received the support of major Western countries — the U.S. in the lead — and powers such as Japan. The U.S. House of Representatives all the way to U.S. President Obama have voiced their support and passed bills calling for Taiwan's participation at such bodies. Yet it now appears that at international organizations, China exerts more influence on the workings of such bodies than the major liberal-democratic states that created and sustained the international system for decades.

This is no longer an issue of China bullying a single state, like Taiwan, or using its might to coerce smaller states in a bilateral context; we have entered an age where China has the ability — largely because we let it — to intimidate groups of major economies that share the same values and strategic goals. The international community, or at a minimum a coalition of like-minded states, could push back and find the means to ensure that democratic Taiwan, which only asks to be allowed to shoulder its share of the burden as a responsible stakeholder, can be let in. But of late it hasn't done so, and as a result a law-abiding democracy is left out in the cold.

The implications of such cowardice and collective lack of moral fiber could be serious: the entire system that has ensured international order since the end of World War II seems to be coming apart. China is hacking away, and we’re looking on, providing the timber.

 

First Editor: Olivia Yang

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