I’ve been in Taiwan for the last couple of days, participating in a conference on human rights in China in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics which start in less than six months. The population of Taiwan is about 23 million, which is slightly more than Australia’s which currently stands at a bit over 21 million. Given the difficulties Taiwan has had over so many years in getting diplomatic recognition and being able to participate in any way in the United Nations, it has been interesting to see some countries – including Australia – very quickly giving diplomatic recognition to Kosovo within days of its declaration of independence. Kosovo’s population is around 2 to 2.5 million.
Perhaps not surprisingly, China is among those not recognising Kosovo. It not only fiercely opposes any type of separate recognition of Taiwan, but also stridently opposes any suggestion of self-determination for Tibet. No doubt Spain’s opposition is in part based on concerns about Basque separatists within their own state.
Self-determination is a very important principle, but not always a clear one. It is interesting to examine just when it is accepted and when it isn’t – and who by. It shows that the question of just what it is that constitutes a nation is not always clear cut. I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that met with Taiwan’s President this afternoon. He spoke about the Kosovo situation. It does highlight the oddity that a place like Taiwan, which is obviously a self-governing and autonomous country, finds it difficult to have its recognition of Kosovo recognised.
UPDATE: In a nice example of just how fraught it can be making any sort of comment on this sort of thing, I’ve discovered that the above remarks of mine have got me labelled as “Basquephobe of the week” by a blogger who campaigns for Basque independence. I guess it gives me another award to add to CV of achievements, although I must say I don’t know anywhere near enough about the situation in the Basque region to have an informed opinion on the issue (or even an uninformed one).
Leaving aside this blogger’s not-so-minor error of labelling me as a US politician – thus giving the writer a seriously wrong-headed excuse to bash US politicians – it is interesting how what I thought was a determinedly neutral piece can immediately be seen as vehemently anti-something (in this case anti-Basque). It seems that merely using the term “Basque separatists” is enough to place one in the category of ‘Basquephobe’, which is something I should remember if I’m ever going to mention that topic again. Seeing I have dipped back into this post to add this update, I may as well add for the record that my personal view on Kosovo is that it did seem unnecessarily quick for Australia to announce formal diplomatic recognition, although I imagine the eventual end outcome of an independent nation will be much the same, regardless.