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Taipei May 22, 2002 - Taiwan has the Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome

TAIWAN GETS NO RESPECT

By Bob Van Leer

  (TAIPEI, TAIWAN - Tuesday, May 22, 2002) - Taiwan has the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome - it gets no respect.

  Dr. Michael Kan, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan, told us, "We are a major economic entity". He said ROC is 13th or 14th in international trade, and number 7 in outbound trade. He said 70% of the laptop computers in the world are produced in ROC. Yet ROC has formal diplomatic relations with only 28 countries including such heavyweights as Republic of Nauru and Burkino Faso. No major nation recognizes ROC as a separate state.

   Yet Dr. Kau told us, "As far as we are concerned, we are a sovereign state". He said ROC dates to 1912, but after 1949 lost control over mainland China. He said mainland China, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), refers to us as a province of China. He said we resist this, the PRC has never exercised any authority over this territory.

  Both the U. S. and mainland China subscribe to the "one China" policy, but with different interpretations. Kau said we don't like the "one China" policy as it tends to downgrade our sovereign state. He said we are trying to get back into the U.N. but just lost an effort to join a U.N. organization, the World Health Organization. Mainland China puts pressure on nations not to recognize Taiwan as a separate state.

  Kau said our prosperity and security are linked with the U. S. He said, Taiwan was created in the image of the U. S." Kau said, "We are very grateful for the kind of commitment given to us by the U.S."

  Taiwan is not a third-world country. It has a population of 22.2 million (2000) and a life expectancy of 72.5 years compared to 74 years in the U.S. (1999). Per capita Gross National Product (GNP) was $13,235 in 1999 compared to $34,003 in the U.S. The United Kingdom (England) had a GNP of $24,562.

  At another meeting, William W. Li, Mainland Affairs Council, give more figures on ROC investment in mainland China from 1990 to 2001. He said the official figure is $21 billion but estimated at $50-70 billion. When asked to refine these figures, he said until the last few years there was no way to keep track, but mainland China estimated $60-70 billion.

  Li said there were over three million trips last year from Taiwan to China, but Beijing still keeps threatening Taiwan.

  Li reiterated that, "You are the best friend for us and we do appreciate your help". Deputy Director Shu-Ti Chang said Taiwan is a sovereign independent state and Taiwan's future must be determined by the people of Taiwan.

 In the morning we visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipai, built after Chiang's death in 1975 at the age of 89. Chiang was the leader of China through World War II and is treated here as the father of the country after Sun Yat-sen. But in reality, Chiang lost the entire mainland China to the Communists under Mao Zedung and had to retreat to this small island. Mrs. Chiang is still alive at the age of 106 and lives in New York City.

  In the evening we were hosted for and eight-course dinner at the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel by Frederic D. N. Chang, vice minister of the government information office. Tomorrow we will have an audience with Chen Shu-bian, president of the Republic of China.

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