Friday, July 29, 2005

International recognition from a surprising source

Taiwan does everything it can to win little scraps of political recognition from abroad -- fighting for diplomatic ties with Tuvalu, say, or hosting big computer conferences, or carrying out a quixotic (and mind-numblingly dull) quest for inclusion in the World Health Organization. Most of these efforts come to nothing, and members of Taiwan's diplomatic corps must be among the most rejected people on the planet.

That's why this press release from the website of the Communications Workers of America caught my eye. The background is that Chunghwa Telecom, the primarily state-owned telephone company, is on the way to being privatized, but there's great resistance to privatization among the company's employees and among many politicians too. Well, now it turns out that the anti-privatizers have an ally in the AFL-CIO, the U.S. umbrella labor organization, which is calling on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to block any sale of Chunghwa shares because the privatization may be unconstitutional in Taiwan. "The SEC should not be deciding questions that are the jurisdiction of Taiwan," says a high-ranking U.S. union official. "The United States must respect democracy in Taiwan."

Hey, it ain't exactly a seat in the United Nations, but this bit of support for Taiwanese sovereignty from the U.S. labor movement, even though that movement is much diminished these days, is a relatively big piece of support by Taiwanese standards. Obviously the AFL-CIO's action is only motivated by a marriage of interests between unions in the States and here, but it's not often that you'll hear any kind of serious player in the States speak out on behalf of Taiwan (or even its public-sector workers).

I somehow doubt that this coup is the result of strategizing by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At this very moment, MOFA is probably trying to win inclusion under the name "Taiwan, ROC" in the International Association of Guava-Producing Nations.

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