- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

President Chen Shui-bian of the Republic of China (Taiwan) appears to have boosted his party's electoral prospects by boycotting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Shanghai last week in the face of repeated snubs by China.
But the stand may come at a cost to Taiwan's drive for international recognition.
The popular support was reflected in the Taiwanese press. The Taipei Times praised the boycott as a principled stand, accusing China of committing a "major faux pas" by not accepting Taiwan's choice to represent it at the summit. Others also lauded Mr. Chen for standing up to China on principle and upholding national pride.
But political opponents of Mr. Chen criticized him for "playing politics with an issue of strategic importance to Taiwan," according to sources close to the opposition.
For six years, Taipei has sought to participate in every possible international gathering to establish beyond doubt its legitimacy as a nation. It undertook that campaign for fear that the rapid transformation of China into a great power would leave a democratic, pro-West Taiwan isolated.
With an election due in early December for the national legislature, in which the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, holds a majority, Mr. Chen and his independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party are obviously hoping his tough stand on APEC will translate into votes.
"If the Chinese communists sought to wound Chen Shui-bian by rejecting his representative for the Shanghai forum, they're going to be sorry come December," said John Tkacik, policy analyst on East Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
But Taiwan may pay a price in international backing by boycotting the Shanghai meeting, where many differences on politics and principles were swept under the rug in the interest of uniting East and Southeast Asia behind the war against terrorism.
Since 1994, Taiwan has tenaciously sought to raise its international profile. Under its former president, Lee Teng-hui, it solicited invitations for highly visible foreign visits, including one to the United States by Mr. Lee himself that created a major chill in U.S.-China relations.
Every year since the recognition campaign began, Taiwan has applied for re-entry into the United Nations, a membership it lost to communist China in 1971.
It has also scoured the world for diplomatic recognition. Taiwan now is recognized by 28 nations, all of which have had to break off relations with Beijing.
The efforts have won it full membership in both APEC and the Asian Development Bank. Yet, Taiwan passed up a chance to showcase its international standing in Shanghai, the economic mecca of its rival, China.
After China barred Mr. Chen from attending the summit personally, it rejected his alternative choice as well.
This was Li Yuan-zu, a former vice president of Taiwan and currently senior adviser to the president.
Furthermore, Beijing departed from the past practice of sending a special envoy to personally deliver the summit invitation.
Instead it sent a fax to Taipei asking simply that Taiwan send a representative.
The snub enraged the Taiwan leadership.
"We are not attending the APEC summit in Shanghai after the People's Republic's unreasonable treatment," Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao declared.
Mr. Chen urged "member economies of APEC to jointly condemn China's behavior and prevent such an occurrence from happening again."
"China has tarnished its own image as a big nation," he added.
The United States reacted with little more than a mild expression of regret and the hope that such a situation will not recur.

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