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Asia Minute: Taiwan’s Complications

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Policy makers in the United States and Asia are still talking about Donald Trump’s recent phone call with the leader of Taiwan. There’s been a big focus on how the call broke decades of precedent—and how China’s government may react. But there has not been a big focus on Taiwan itself. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The topic of Taiwan can lead to a delicate dance for many international groups.  It’s largely because of Taiwan’s presence that international groupings such as APEC are referred to as “member economies” and not “member nations” or “countries.”

In the Rio Olympics, the 57 Taiwanese athletes competed under the banner of “Chinese Taipei.”  When it comes to diplomatic recognition, the general rule is that a country has to choose: recognize the government in Beijing as the People’s Republic of China….or the Taipei government as the Republic of China.

The Vatican recognizes Taiwan.  So do more than 20 other countries—from the Dominican Republic and Belize to Swaziland and Burkina Faso.  And there’s a concentration of Pacific Island nations that recognize Taiwan—from Palau and the Marshall Islands to the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.  Economic considerations have been a factor in many of those diplomatic recognitions.

Other countries have more informal links.  Singapore quietly does some defense drills in Taiwan.  And then there’s business.  The island has established a key presence in the supply chain of international companies—not just for technology giants from Apple and Microsoft to IBM, but also companies like Dupont, 3M, and Corning.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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