Vatican— Are They Fueling The Flames?by Brad Warbiany
Since my employer is a Taiwanese corporation, and we have manufacturing in both Taiwan and on the mainland, I try to keep abreast of what’s going on between the two countries. It’s a fairly odd situation, and one that I didn’t really understand until I had met and talked it over with a number of Taiwanese ex-pats I work with. A few years ago, I was reflexively in favor of Taiwan declaring independence. Now I’ve learned enough to change my tune.
So I greet this news with caution:
TAIPEI – The Vatican will move to resume relations with China after more than half a century if religious freedom is allowed but it will not abandon China’s diplomatic rival Taiwan, an official said on Tuesday.
The Vatican, which Taiwan sees as an important ally as it fights for international legitimacy against China, would seek to restore an apostolic nunciature in Beijing for the first time since the Communist Party began ruling China in 1949, said Monsignor Ambrose Madtha, charge d’affaires at the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Taipei.
But the Vatican would seek to keep a delegate in Taiwan, he said. Taiwan split from China in 1949 after the civil war that brought the Communists to power, and the Vatican went with it.
Doug is happy to see this, but I think it may add to the trouble Taiwan is facing. As the type of folks who think back reverently on the founders of this nation, who braved a war against the world’s premier “superpower” of the time, classical liberals tend to take a kind view of Taiwanese independence. After all, we threw off the shackles of the British for reasons not nearly as severe as what our own government is doing to us, so the Taiwanese must want the same thing, right?
There’s a big difference, though. America in the 1770’s was ruled by Britian. Taiwan is not ruled by China. While Taiwan does not have UN representation, and their independence is not universally accepted in the “world community”, they live in a state of de facto independence. China does not in any way rule Taiwan’s workings, and except for the threat of forced reunification, does not really impact Taiwan’s government. To further confuse the matter, only a fraction of Taiwanese want a declared independence. Much like the Britian/America situation, Taiwan and China share very deep cultural ties. While some Taiwanese desire independence, others desire to wait for the day when China’s communist government has liberalized enough to have a voluntary reunification. Taiwan, living in it’s current independent state (if not declared), can only be hurt by a war with China, and gains little from a recognized independence.
Over the years, China and Taiwan have been softening their stances. There’s too much at stake economically not to. They have been working on allowing direct flights from Taiwan to the mainland, and Taiwanese companies have been making good use of the ample real estate and cheap labor found on the mainland. If China goes to war with Taiwan, it may be hurt economically by the damage it does to the economy of Taiwan, which is increasingly interdependent with their own. There is an unmistakable rift between the nations, but with time and a liberalization of China, that rift can heal.
What neither country needs, though, is for outside entities to push them towards the brink. That is what the Vatican, although unintentionally, is doing. China is a nation with a lot of pride at stake, and this is damaging to their pride. It may not be enough to spur them to act, but it doesn’t help the situation much. Actions like this fuel the flames between the two nations. If we, as outsiders, do anything, it should be with the intent of reducing the tension, not increasing it. I have an ideological desire to see Taiwan live as an independent liberal democracy. But my pragmatic side realized they’re already doing so. If that situation changes, it’s more likely to be for the worse than the better.