There may be no stranger geopolitical relationship in the world than the one with Taiwan and, well, virtually the rest of the planet.
Consider what happened recently in Washington, D.C.
Some individuals at Taiwan’s unofficial “embassy” complex raised the Taiwanese flag over the building, causing the State Department to complain that the flag violates a long-standing U.S.-Taiwan agreement against the display of the flag.
This is a big deal? Well, yes — for reasons that drive me nuts.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan five times dating back to the late fall of 1989. It is without question one of the world’s most vibrant countries. Its economy flourishes. Its culture is rich and vibrant. It has a military that pound-for-pound is one of the stoutest in the world.
But the country has diplomatic relations with virtually no one on Earth. Why? Because most countries — such as the United States — recognize only one “China,” and that would be the People’s Republic of China, which since 1949 has claimed Taiwan as a “renegade province.”
Taiwan’s government fled to the island off the mainland coast when the communists won a bloody civil war. Mao Tse-Tung took power in Beijing; Chiang Kai-Shek did the same in Taipei.
For decades, the world recognized the Taipei government. Then in 1971, the United Nations voted to admit the PRC into its body; it expelled Taiwan. In 1978, the United States offered diplomatic recognition to Beijing and kicked Taipei out of its embassy.
The nations have had a vigorous cultural and economic relationship ever since. Taiwan’s “embassy” is in a luxury estate, but the inhabitants are prohibited from flying the Taiwanese flag in public.
Thus, the State Department has become angry.
Well, the folks at State should get over it. The presence of the flag will do nothing by itself to change the relationship between the nations. As for how China would react, well, the Chinese aren’t going to invade Taiwan or attack the United States of America.
It’s still a vital one at every level except the one that counts.
I should note that almost no one in Taiwan considers himself or herself to be “Chinese.” Virtually the entire population today was born on the island. They consider themselves to be Taiwanese. Yes, they are ethnic Chinese, but the nation state has forged an identity all its own.
The task for them and for others around the world is to persuade the communists who run the mainland to recognize Taiwan for what it has become: a flourishing independent nation.