China lashed out at Taiwan and, indirectly, the United States on Thursday over the self-ruled island’s attempted involvement in the United Nations General Assembly as the world’s leaders gather in New York next week for the annual conclave.
“Recently, the Taiwan authorities, in collusion with some ‘external forces’, again clamoured for so-called Taiwan’s participation in the UN,” China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said Thursday in a statement, invoking an oft-used phrase for the US.
“This is yet another political farce staged by separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’ and some anti-China forces news-jacking the incoming 78th session of the UN General Assembly.
“It is essentially political manipulation under the disguise of Taiwan’s so-called international participation.”
China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be eventually reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. Few countries, including the US, recognise the self-governing island as an independent state.
The sharp words come as China sends mixed signals on its support for global organizations even as it works to block Taiwan’s involvement. Reports suggest that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi may skip the assembly.
Additionally, earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping opted out of the Group of 20 summit in India. And questions remain whether Xi will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco in November.
Zhang’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification regarding exactly what recent Taiwanese action or events he was referring to – although given Taiwan’s strategy of pushing limits, there are no shortage of candidates.
In late August, Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned China for its international containment strategy toward the island.
It also criticised the UN for yielding to Beijing’s pressure and called on the UN to: stop excluding Taiwan’s 23 million people from the international system; facilitate peace across the Taiwan Strait; allow Taipei to participate in relevant meetings and activities; and stop its “discriminatory policy” toward Taiwan passport holders and journalists.
Taiwan has long sought to expand its international space even as an ascendant China has worked to narrow its scope.
Following a recent switch in diplomatic recognition to Beijing by Honduras earlier this year, just 12 countries plus the Vatican out of 193 UN member states maintain official diplomatic relations with Taipei, down from 23 a decade ago.
Though the cross-strait battle over recognition has gone on for decades, Taiwan’s bid has gained more support in Washington recently as US-China trade, military and diplomatic relations have hit new lows.
While the island is challenged diplomatically, it looms large in trade, manufacturing and investment as one of Asia’s largest economies, technology powerhouse and the world’s most advanced semiconductor maker.
On Saturday, around 300 supporters held a “March for Taiwan” starting at the People’s Republic of China consulate on Manhattan’s West Side and winding across 42nd Street before boarding a ship that sailed along the East River past the UN. Marchers held banners and shouted “Keep Taiwan Free” and “UN for Taiwan”.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Tecro) in New York, Taiwan’s de facto consulate, showed its support for the march, providing among other things a food truck emblazoned with the slogan “Global Peace for Taiwan” that offered bystanders bubble milk tea popsicles.
“Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, a part of the PRC,” James Lee, Tecro’s New York director general, said in a statement.
“The undeniable reality today in the Taiwan Strait is that the PRC and TW are two separate entities, with two separate governments representing different peoples. This is also the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.”
In other recent moves that enraged Beijing, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen transited through the United States in the spring – en route to Central America – and met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Beijing responded by holding three days of unprecedented combat-readiness drills around Taiwan, sending missiles flying over the island into waters near Japan.
Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai Ching-te, who is the presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP), also stopped over in the US last month on his way to Paraguay.
Taiwanese presidential contenders traditionally visit the US as candidates. But in the diplomatic dance between Washington, Beijing and Taipei, Tsai’s visit was a “private” unofficial transit, according to the White House.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, that Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng would attend the general assembly next week in lieu of Wang, who attended in 2022. Xi addressed the assembly virtually from China in 2021.
Beijing is particularly rankled by the independence-leaning DPP, which leads in the polls, preferring in recent decades the Kuomintang the more Beijing-friendly opposition party.
KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, the mayor of New Taiwan, is starting an eight-day trip to the US that his office has billed as a “journey of dialogue and deepening friendship”.
Ambassador Zhang said that Taiwan’s “so-called international participation” was intended to bolster the DPP’s election campaign and aid “the strategy by some external forces to use Taiwan to contain China”.
During the general assembly’s leaders week, dozens of monarchs, presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers descend on New York – US President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend Tuesday and Wednesday – snarling traffic and creating massive security challenges for the city’s police department.
Looking in from the outside, Taiwan’s ministry said that it planned four side events around the gathering focused on regional security, sustainable development, public health and technology.
It also sent a legislative delegation to New York – including several representatives who took part in the Saturday march – and would reach out to sympathetic UN delegations for support.
“The so-called Taiwan’s participation in the UN is a false narrative through and through,” Zhang countered. “Whatever excuses used, the so-called Taiwan’s participation in the UN will not succeed.”