Increased efforts by Beijing to limit, and reduce, Taiwan’s international space have made the question of Taiwan’s opportunities for participation in international organizations more urgent for Taiwan and more salient as an issue in international politics. Whether reflecting the PRC’s pique at Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to meet Beijing’s demands on the language and substance of cross-Strait relations, or reflecting a more general assertiveness in Chinese foreign policy, Taiwan has been facing a tightening squeeze since mid-2016, reflected in the non-renewal of Taiwan’s invitation (issued every year since 2008) to participate as an observer in the annual meeting of the WHO’s assembly, the poaching of some of Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic partners (including Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama), and a stiffened insistence that international organizations use status-undermining nomenclature for Taiwan (such as “Chinese Taipei” or “Taiwan, China”).
Despite these setbacks, Taiwan continues its long-running pursuit of membership or participation in international institutions, and maintains a record of success in formal global and regional organizations (such as the WTO and the ADB), other international forums (such as APEC), and other intergovernmental and non-governmental international organizations. Although representation or participation in the UN itself (if not UN specialized organizations) remains out of reach, the annual UN General Assembly meeting in September provides a timely and poignant occasion for addressing these issues.
What are the prospects for Taiwan sustaining or expanding its current levels of participation? What approaches might enhance those chances? What are the major challenges or impediments to success?