Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has called for Asian ally Taiwan to be given “appropriate status” in a number of global organisations.
Gonsalves said that Taiwan should be included at the World Health Assembly, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
China claims Taiwan, a self-ruled island of 23 million people, as part of its territory, and blocks Taiwan’s participation in a number of international organisations.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among 12 countries that recognise Taiwan as an independent country amidst China’s claim that Taipei is a renegade state.
Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to accomplish its long-held ambition of bringing Taipei under its rule.
Gonsalves, speaking recently at an event at which Taiwan donated 3,120 laptop computers to be distributed among students, teachers and education administrators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), restated his government’s commitment to maintaining diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
He noted that after then speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022, Beijing retaliated by banning the import from Taiwan of a number of commodities, including potato chips.
“But you can consume computer chips because that’s not banned,” Gonsalves said, as he highlighted the extent of trade between Taiwan and China.
He pointed out that Taiwan produces the bulk of high-end computer chips in the world, which are used in devices ranging from washing machines to sophisticated weapons.
“And that provides, in a sense, a silicone shield to people bombing Taiwan. Because, if you knock that out, the disturbance which COVID had provided, you will see what will happen. The world will go into a tailspin,” Gonsalves said.
“If you get rid of the production in one abrupt way of computer chips in Taiwan, you will find that you can’t get from your washing machine to your phone right up to sophisticated weaponry; you need the chips from Taiwan,” the prime minister said.
Gonsalves said he was sure that “reputable people” want to see productive relations between China and Taiwan.
“And if they continue to trade and work together with matters of investment and there is peace across the Taiwan Strait, even that continues for another 500 years in the current situation, it would be less than 10% of the time of this great civilisation called the Chinese civilisation. So, our position is absolutely clear.”
‘I am not a puzzle’
Gonsalves said that an “important official” from China recently told him that he is “a puzzle”.
“Well, I am not a puzzle. It is just that I provide a mode of analysis, a framework of analysis and the analysis itself which you cannot reasonably rebut and this is how we base our policy and I want everybody in SVG and the world to understand that,” Gonsalves said.
He said this is why his government wants Taiwan to have “an appropriate status at the World Health Assembly.
The prime minister noted that health is universal, adding that Taiwan played an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You don’t have COVID on mainland China and somehow there is a cordon sanitaire placed around Taiwan so that COVID wouldn’t go inside…” Gonsalves said, adding that he wants to see Taiwan involved in the World Health Organisation.
He pointed out that there are a lot of flights out of Taiwan and “it is in the safety of the entire world that Taiwan be given an appropriate status at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
“It is also our position that Taiwan should be given an appropriate status at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change because climate change affects the whole world and you can’t wish away 23 million people,” Gonsalves said.
“If you can wish away 23 million people, could you imagine how you could wish away 110,000,” he said, referring to the population of SVG, adding, “I am not doltish.”
The prime minister also called for Taiwan’s engagement and appropriate status within the Convention on Biological Diversity and the convention on land degradation, desertification and drought.
“Because those things are very germane to us because they matter across the world. Taiwan has an appropriate status with the WTO (World Trade Organisation). So, man and woman cussing one another but man and woman trading within the framework of the WTO,” Gonsalves said.
“In other words, you make a lot of noise about everything else but you trade.”
He maintained that Kingstown-Taipei ties, which were established in 1981, are “grounded in the tenets of the charter of the United Nations as applied to global and our own circumstances.
“It is a relationship which has, in fact, been tried and tested and it is a relationship that has stood the test of time.”
Gonsalves said that the relationship “is not working in a merely transactional manner.
“There are others who may wish to break relations and put a ‘for sale sign’ in the metaphorical shop window of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This government has no ‘for sale’ sign in the metaphorical shop window of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. None whatsoever,” he said.
Gonsalves said that his government does not accept a “One China” policy.
“We accept that there is one Chinese civilisation out of which we may have more than one legitimate poetical expression,” he said, adding that There is a European civilisation “with several different political expressions formed as states”.
He noted that the Chinese civilisation is nearly 6,000 years old, adding that in 1949, there was “a fracture”, out of which emerged “one political expression called the People’s Republic of China and one called the Republic of China on Taiwan, which was founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1911”.
‘principled and within our interest’
Gonsalves said that most of the countries in the world, overwhelmingly, have relations with the People’s Republic of China.
“But is not if everybody is going over a cliff that I must go with them. And, we work with matter that are principled and within our interest.”
Gonsalves said he wants to make it plain that his government has not set any conditions for diplomatic relationship with China.
“They are the ones who have said that once you have relations with Taiwan you can’t have with us. Well, no country in the world, however powerful, however large, can put a precondition in respect of the relationship we can have. … If they say tomorrow that it is OK you can have diplomatic relations with us as you have with Taiwan, that’s fine with us. Of course, they are not going to say that because they have a one China policy…”
He said that Kingstown recognises a state called PRC and works with them in institutions across the region and the world.
These include the Caribbean Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nation, at the group of 77 countries and China.
He further noted that SVG is the pro tempore president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), most members of which have diplomatic relations with China.
“And, naturally, we, as the pro tempore president, our officials, our government will have connections within the context of CELAC. We have not set any preconditions on our relationship with PRC. They have set preconditions in relation to us and I cannot accept that and I will not accept that.”
Gonsalves said that some people across the world “don’t understand how we can do this because they said, ‘We didn’t think of doing it this way’ — many countries. But we have a clarity of thought on the matter and we deal with the People’s Republic of China with respect.”
He noted that China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
“We do not say that the Republic of China on Taiwan represents the People’s Republic of China. We don’t say that. But we have a relationship based on a clear principle here and the principle is that of self-determination.
He said that 23 million people “in the territory which is called the Republic of China, Taiwan, they have decided that this is their country, this is their government, this is how they want to run their affairs. I mean, that, to me, is clear and straightforward and I have sympathy, great embrace, of that particular proposition of self-determination.”
He said that what he wants is for there to be peace across the Taiwan Strait.