Friday, January 25, 2008

Urge the WHO to include Taiwan in global health regulation framework

Three of Taiwan's diplomatic allies: El Salvador, Paraguay, and San Tome and Principe are among 34 members of the WHO Executive Board. Last week, they
made a proposal (without directly naming Taiwan) to recommend that the WHO Executive Board should include any countries and areas that are currently excluded from the International Health Regulations (IHR, a legal framework for global infectious disease control), so as to close gaps in the global epidemic control and health care network.

In May 2005, the IHR was adopted by the World Heath Assembly (WHA), the highest decision-making body of the WHO, and took effect in June 2007. The IHR requires all member states to report any public health emergencies of international concern.

Taiwan announced its voluntary adherence to IHR regulations in May 2005. However, the WHO—which does not recognize Taiwan—has rejected direct contact with Taiwan and thus excluded it from international health networks.

For the same reason, the WHO had failed to respond and provide any assistance in July 2007, after Taiwanese health authorities reported that a local couple had a dangerous form of tuberculosis and had posed a threat to health overseas by flying to China via Hong Kong.
Moreover, the WHO's International Food Safety Authorities Network did not inform Taiwan about contaminated corn after it acknowledge that a shipment of green corn exported from Thailand was not safe last September. Sadly, Taiwanese authorities were not informed in time until 10 days after China received the alert.

What’s worse? Without notifying Taiwan’s government, the WHO's website has listed Taiwanese ports as “Chinese,” another indication that it aims to completely excludes Taiwan from international health networks due to the pressure from China.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned proposal by El Salvador, Paraguay and San Tome and Principe was in vain, because China ambushed these Taiwan’s allies on the Executive Board of the WHO by robbing them of the opportunity to speak up for Taiwan.

The bill was initially scheduled for consideration during the meeting of the 122nd session of the WHO's Executive Board. However, China successfully blocked the bill, after China unexpectedly requested that the review of the bill be advanced before the day's meeting was to end, when most of the bill's sponsors were actually absent.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns China for disregarding the health rights of the Taiwanese people as well as the WHO for ignoring the right of Taiwan’s allies to speak on behalf of their draft resolution.

MOFA points out the fact that China has never cared about the health of Taiwanese, as shown by its failure last year to inform Taiwan of a shipment of potentially toxic corn from Thailand. More importantly, China has no legitimate authority to represent Taiwan's health interests.

It was reported that China also proposed its own amendment in an effort to block Taiwan's representation in the health agreement.

It is definitely a warning showing China's suppression of Taiwan has intensified. In the international arena, Beijing has never give up wielding its influence to sabotage Taiwan's chance.

However, unless the WHO wants to make efforts in changing this situation, Taiwan will still remain a gap in the global disease surveillance system. Shouldn’t the WHO pay more attention to this terrible fact? And why is the WHO principle of “health for all” instead replaced by the "one China" principle claimed by Beijing, a government that never respects universal human rights such as freedom and democracy?

The international community must understand that the China-claimed “cross-strait health communication channels” between China and Taiwan actually does not exist. For establishing a more complete global health network, the WHO definitely, needs to include Taiwan in global health regulation framework as early as possible.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Taiwan's Political Prospects

During a seminar held at Washington D.C., Dr. Chih-cheng Lo, who currently serves as Chairman at Soochow University’s Department of Political Science, stated that Taiwan’s President Chen’s campaign activities are geared towards the upcoming Legislative Yuan election, while presidential candidate Hsieh will begin his electoral campaign afterward. According to Dr. Lo, Chen and Hsieh are implicitly coordinating their strategies—Chen’s aim is to consolidate conservative pan-Green constituency, while Hsieh will work to garner swing voters’ support.

Dr. Lo also pointed out the following: Beijing’s repeated overreaction to President Chen’s statements; ex-President Lee Teng-hui’s diminishing political influence and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang’s continuing role as the “middleman” of KMT and DPP.

Washington’s Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), a well-known policy think tank, held a seminar on Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election. The following specialists presented opening remarks: Dr. Richard Bush, Senior Fellow and Director of Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution; Mr. Charles W. Freeman III, Chairholder of CSIS’s Freeman Chair in Asia Studies; Dr. Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Professor of History at Georgetown University.

Dr. Lo and two other specialists, Dr. Chung-li Wu, Associate Research Fellow at Academia Sinica and Ms. Bonnie Glaser, Senior Associate at CSIS, served as speakers for this event. They also opened the floor to Q&A at the end of their speech.

In response to participants’ questions about President Chen’s involvement in campaign as well as Hsieh’s possibility of being marginalized, Dr. Lo pointed out that Hsieh advocates a centrist stance and he is interested in winning those who support such stance. It seems that Hsieh is able to maintain his position despite severe criticisms from the conservative pan-Green members.

According to Dr. Lo, Chen’s active campaign involvement shows that the Legislative Yuan election is crucial to Democratic Progressive Party’s prospect. Hsieh will take over the scene, once the Legislative Yuan election is over.

Dr. Lo does not believe that President Chen will do anything drastic during the immediate post-electoral period, given that the new president and his behaviors will be the center of attention. Thus, Beijing and other third-parties should not overreact to Chen’s statements.

Many panel participants also wondered whether next year’s electoral outcomes will mark the end of divided government and accompanying stalemate that has been plaguing Chen’s administration.

In response to this question as well as many observers’ belief that KMT will win the upcoming Legislative Yuan election, Dr. Lo pointed out two possible scenarios: first, a “pendulum effect” where voters will elect DPP presidential candidate, so the pan-Green executive branch can monitor and balance pan-Blue dominant legislative branch. Alternatively, voters and local political forces will bandwagon with KMT, and such “bandwagon effect” will in turn help KMT candidate Ma Yin-jou to obtain electoral victory. While there are many people who believe that KMT’s predominance in both Legislative Yuan and executive branch will end the current legislative-executive antagonism, Dr. Lo argued divided government, with KMT dominating the Legislative Yuan and Hsieh heading the executive branch, will not necessarily generate stalemate. Rather, such situation can give Hsieh more leverage to get more pan-Blue legislators to join the pan-Green camp. Doing so will allow Hsieh to form a majority coalition in the Legislative Yuan and coalition government, thereby promoting reconciliation among both parties. Such tactic worked during Hsieh’s term as mayor of Kaohsiung, as his effort resulted in support from several KMT municipal legislators.

Ms. Glaser reinstated US government’s neutrality towards abovementioned issues; the US will refrain from leaning towards any party/candidate and respect Taiwanese voters’ electoral choices. However, it is the US hope that Taiwan’s new administration will make more effective foreign policy decision—ones that will take both Taiwan and US interests into consideration. The US, according to Ms. Glaser, believes that Taiwan has been consistently ignoring the interests of the US. Thus, the US hopes that the new administration will commit to the following goals: 1) renew cross-Strait talks with Beijing, 2) overcome cross-Strait trade restrictions and 3) establish stable and mutual-trusting relations with the US. Ms. Glaser also hopes that Taiwan will aim to consolidate its democratic system. Doing so will not only help Taiwan to stabilize its own society but will also reduce Chinese people’s negative view towards Taiwan’s democracy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Countermeasures for Lowering the Greenhouse Gas Emission in Taiwan

Representatives from 158 nations reached an agreement in the United Nations’ meeting about the climate change on reduction of greenhouse gas emission as the progress of negotiating Post Kyoto Protocol. According to the agreement, industrial countries are willing to reduce the greenhouse gas emission to a degree of twenty-five to forty per cent below the level of 1990’s.

When the whole world devotes to reduce the greenhouse gas emission, Taiwan, out of the reasons of justice realization and economic interest, should actively take adequate measures in lowering the emission of greenhouse gases, even under the situation of a non-member status in the (post) Kyoto Protocol. In terms of policy making, there are four dimensions to be concerned: adjustment of industry structure, better energy efficiency, reasonable utility of environmental resources, and green finance reformation. Besides, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also suggests six policy tools on climate change:

1. Financial tools: technology innovation and development of recycled resource.

2. Market tools: emission trading.

3. Voluntary reduction: reduction made by industrial and transportation departments.

4. Control and standard setting: standard of efficiency and green mark.

5. Environmental education: information, education, and public awareness.

6. Research and development: energy efficiency, alternative energy, carbon recycling and immobilized technology.

The concrete suggestions of the future reduction of greenhouse gases in Taiwan include the elements as follows:

1. Promote green finance reformation: promoting green finance reformation can reflect the greenhouse gas emission cost that comes from petroleum consumption. The government can impose a tax on energy consumption with some supplementary measures to achieve a win-win-win result for economic development, environment protection and energy saving.

2. Better energy efficiency: the government should provide assistance for industries and factories to better production efficiency by adapting the clearest process and environmental protection technology to accelerate upgrading process.

3. Develop green energy and related industries: the government should actively sell recycling energy and low-carbon technology to fulfill low-carbon economy by practicing green production and green consumption. Besides, the government should also support the renewable energy industries at home and develop alternative renewable energy, such as bio-energy, wind energy, solar energy, hydrogen energy and fuel cells, ocean energy generation, geothermal energy and so on.

4. Effectively introduce the incentive tools for the market and promote carbon trade system: the government should promote the green trading system with adequate quantity control.

5. Push the legislation of “Renewable Energy Development Act.”

6. Push the legislation of “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Law.”

7. Fully substitute lighting equipments, air-conditioning facilities and traffic lights with the energy-saving facilities.

8. Promote the green buildings in large scale and improve the energy-saving systems of old buildings.

9. Actively help develop the industry of energy technology service.

10. Perfect the mass transportation system and encourage the public to travel with it.

11. Ensure Taiwan’s energy security by maintaining the diversity of energy resources and establish energy independence by lowering the energy import ratio.

12. Set up a transparent mechanism for reasonable energy price.

13. Set up a greenhouse gas reduction goal to respond to global climate change.

In the future, Taiwan should also take the changing international trend and Taiwan’s unique economic and social situation into consideration, so as to step by step achieve the greenhouse gas reduction to meet the greenhouse gas emission per capita standard set by the OECD.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Decreasing the Greenhouse Emission Based Upon Right Political Thoughts

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) indicated in the fourth scientific report on 2nd Febuary, 2007 that in the past century, the average global temperature has been rising 0.74 Celsius degrees. Plus, if greenhouse gas keeps emitting as the current trend, twenty years later the average temperature will rice 0.2 degrees every ten year. Until the end of the century, greenhouse gas concentration will increase two times compared to concentration prior to the industrial revolution, and the average temperature will rise 30 degrees. The report suggests that international discussions should urge industrialized countries to take severe control of the total amount of emission, encourage developing countries to restrict their emission, and stress on the policy adaptation and facility initiation.

To encourage all the states to reduce greenhouse gas emission, the UNFCCC also proposes six climate policy tools, including finance, market, volunteer deduction measures, control and standard initiation, environmental education and research, etc. Indeed, there are many policy tools to achieve greenhouse gas deduction or deal with environmental pollution. However, I would like to argue that it is a must to adjust the current ruling thoughts. If the ruling thoughts are improper, even using more and more policy tools cannot be able to solve problems.

In the past, Taiwan deprived off all the natural resources and indeed it brought us a huge amount of wealth. Meanwhile, we also had to sacrifice social justice and environment. When the economic growth reached 9% and 10%, that was also the most polluted time in Taiwan’s environmental history. Pollutions and contaminations like diosin and polychlorinated biphenyl kept occurring at the time.

If Taiwan still wants to copy the development model like what those developing countries do or to propose economic growth as the top priority, then it show that Taiwan does not correspond to global developing trend and instead attach to the out-dated thoughts that human beings could drive out nature. This is definitely not what human society seeks in the 21st century or the future direction for Taiwan.

If the ruling party always views economic growth as the priority policy, then the country will return to the old path of the world factory mode. Professor G. M. Meier and Professor J. E. Stiglitz at Stanford University indicate that the developing mode in developing countries overly stress on economic growth and ignore balanced development of human beings; these states prefer to develop first and then clean the environment. In fact, this type of thought is wrong and costly, and unable to maintain sustainable development. After all, human beings have to co-exist with environment harmoniously in order to maintain a sustainable development. Therefore, political leaders should have correct policy thoughts before discussing how to deduct the greenhouse emission.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Following the international trend and heading to a low-carbon state

What Taiwan encounters about environmental issues is quite diverse and complicated. Global warming is just one of these important issues. Generally, no matter it is the concept of environmental pollution or protection, all are involved in the interaction and relationship between human beings and nature.

During the time of agricultural economy, though economic activities were conducted by using natural resources such as land and water, they were still based on nature, and people followed the changes of season to cultivate their fields. However, after the Industrial Revolution, industrial development had speeded up. Thus, the relationship between human beings and nature had transformed into another type of mutual dependence. During this time, for economic development, the majority of human beings deprived and wasted a huge amount of natural resources. As a result, the price was to pay off with the large amount of pollutants, the destruction of ozone layer, greenhouse effect, acid rain, the proliferation of toxic gas, and the pollution of ocean and rivers, etc.

In the report published by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN has illustrated that global warming is a fact and human activities have resulted in global warming. The most important issue is that too much man-made greenhouse gas emission including CO2 and air pollution influence the radiant heat budget between earth and air. This report indicates that people should re-evaluate and re-define the co-existence between human beings and nature. So far, the international community has listed cutting down carbon dioxide as an important method to fight against global warming. Apart from cutting down carbon dioxide, Taiwan should try to decrease air pollution and heat island effect as well.

Taiwan is unable to participate in many international environmental agreements (such as global climate change framework and Kyoto Treaty), since Taiwan is not the member state of the UN; however, as a member of the international community and the earth, Taiwan should contribute more to the environmental protection issue like global warming. This is not only for the whole human beings but also for the sustainable development in Taiwan. Practically, heading to low-carbon is also beneficial to our sustainable development in economy. According to the regulation of trade barrier in the WTO, environmental exclusion clause may put environmental taxation on exports because of environmental concerns. Also, the European Union also issued WEEE, RoHS and EuP. Apart from this, all electronic and electric products should be recycled (enacted in August 2005) and all toxic materials like As, Hg and Pb are forbidden to be used (enacted in July, 2006); energy-consumed products are asked to meet the EUP requirements.

Energy productivity in Taiwan in terms of GDP and energy usage is 47% and 65% respectively, lower than in the European Union and Japan. This means that compared to developed countries, Taiwan still depends more on energy to stimulate economic growth. It makes Taiwan face the risk of international trade sanction especially from the European Union in the future. The export to the European Union stands for 12.5% in 2004 in total foreign trade rate in Taiwan (a huge slump to 5.8% in 2006). It shows that after the EU issued WEEE, RoHS and EuP, it truly influenced the export to the EU. Therefore, Taiwan’s economy should cooperate more with those developed countries in the future, and our products should meet environmental requirements in developed countries. In this manner, higher profits can be made and a cleaner environment can be maintained.

Moreover, in the long run, Taiwan should cooperate with international organizations including various NPOs and NGOs to make more efforts in maintaining a good environment of the Earth and to create a low-carbon society, a low-carbon economy and a Green Country.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

European Perspective on Taiwan's Join UN Referendum

Upon observing current world developments, there is a general agreement that the European region not only has better living conditions but it is also comprised of the most advanced democracies in the world. European countries have strong economies and they are worldwide competitive, but they are still considered small to medium countries due to their population and size. For instance, Luxemburg’s population is only 480,000, while Norway is 4.6 million and Denmark 5.4 million. There are forty-eight European countries that are sovereign and independent. Hence, most European countries are different from countries that have populations of billions and that are considered regional hegemonies such as the United States, China and India.

Additionally, foreign policies of most European countries, especially the European Commonwealth, respect the sovereignty of individual countries, at the same time endorsing a non-intervention principle in domestic political affairs. Even though European countries are allied with the United States, their attitudes are reserved concerning the U.S. armed involvement in Iraq. Furthermore, most European countries object to the U.S. possible arm intervention in North Korea and to the U.S. nuclear policy against Iran. For these reasons, when Taiwan started to promote the referendum to join the UN under the name of Taiwan in 2007, despite Chinese pressure, most European countries with the exception of France were unwilling to support or have different opinions regarding a policy referendum in the middle of Taiwan’s democratic political maturity.

In reality, referenda have been recurrently used to make policy decisions. For example, the choice to adopt the European Constitution was laid out for public decision through referenda in the Netherlands and in France in 2005. The first country in the world to conduct referenda was France in 1793, which was held to exercise the people’s rights after the French Revolution and to create a new constitution. In a multiracial country like Switzerland, whose central government recognizes four official languages, the referendum is a regular form of political activity used to achieve consensus and to establish national policy. Basically, the majority of European countries share the same collective principles with Taiwan from speaking the same political language to employing equivalent political methods to formulate important public policy and to understand the complexity of politics.

Nevertheless, European countries believe that their national future depends on their own efforts and that they cannot rely on treaties or guarantees from other countries. The European countries that were betrayed or subjugated by such treaties like Poland and the Czech Republic can testify to the deeper feelings that are created by these occurrences. Therefore, regarding Taiwan deciding to hold a referendum to handle the KMT’s party assets as well as using the name of Taiwan to join the UN, most of the European countries have chosen not to express any opinion because when it comes to Taiwan’s internal issues, they believe that Taiwan must endeavor by itself to achieve international recognition.

China is dissatisfied with this type of position, because they consider that since the U.S. is willing to give in to China and has repeatedly criticized Taiwan’s referendum, why haven’t European countries met their international demands. The truth is, since July 2007, China has insisted to the European Union to publicly condemn Taiwan’s referendum policy. However, this request did not achieve the consent of the EU’s executive committee. On August 2007, German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized China for not improving its human rights record or problems with international property rights. She abstained from mentioning any issues regarding Taiwan. On October of the same year, she also received the Dalai Lama in her office, which was interpreted as Germany not willing to play along with China.

Facing with rejections and adherence to European values, China decided to spend money for dollar diplomacy in order to fulfill its diplomatic goals. Not much after Chancellor Merkel’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, China decided to pay 20 billion euros (nearly 2,000 billion NTD) to purchase approximately 160 French Airbus planes, two sets of nuclear power plants and one nuclear waste disposal center. This deal was exchanged in order to get French President Nicholas Sarkozy to act as the first leader from an important democratic country to condemn Taiwan’s democratic politics. Sarkozy did in fact make a public condemnation, declaring Taiwan as an inalienable part of China, once again supporting the lifting of the EU arms embargo, and declining to meet with the Dalai Lama. However, the French public opinion towards Sarkozy after his China visit was not one of great admiration. Even though the majority of the French do not understand Taiwan’s issues, they feel strongly about the issue of Tibet. One French media outlet criticized Sarkozy’s visit to China as lowering French status as a great country and that Sarkozy did not stick to the French values that he emphasized before the election. In December, Sakozy welcomed Kadafi to France with red carpet treating for five days with the desire to sell Airbus planes, nuclear power plants and weapons to Libya. Even though France obtained a 3 billion euros agreement with Libya, most French people were not satisfied, severely criticizing Sarkozy’s foreign policy.

For these reasons, we believe that China, by using their own national resources and threatening other countries to criticize Taiwan’s democratic politics, although it has achieved some diplomatic benefits, it will absolutely not conform to the world trend. This is the case even more special in the European region, where democratic values are respected. When Europe comments on American foreign policy, they do so with a type of reaction to differentiate European values from American ones. Nevertheless, when they speak on Taiwan, it is oftentimes done so lightly, appearing to push the responsibility to other countries and making clear that their own country’s power is insufficient and incapable of single-handedly standing against China’s intimidation and bribery. From these instances, even more so we understand that choosing the democratic road is the right direction for Taiwan. Even though the environment is difficult, a new era of support can be expected from European countries and the international society.