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Beijing Allows "Chinese Taipei" Observer Status at WHA

10:53 AM, Apr 29, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The New York Times reports:

President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan announced on Wednesday that Beijing officials had dropped their objections to Taiwan's participation as an observer at a United Nations body, a step forward in Taiwan's effort to win greater international recognition....

Mao Qunan, the spokesman for China's Health Ministry, said in a statement that the World Health Organization had invited Taiwan to participate next month.

He added, "The current arrangement reflects our overall concern and good will toward Taiwan compatriots and this promotes the cross-straits relationship and the peaceful development of relations."

I was in Taiwan last week and had the chance to meet with several officials from the ruling KMT. They were hyping the WHA decision as a major test of their policy of engagement with the mainland. Their willingness to stake their own credibility on the result strongly implied that they already had some indication of which way the decision would go.

What might strike Americans as begging for crumbs at the table -- observer status at one international institution -- will be played in Taiwan as a major diplomatic victory for the KMT. Of course the question is, why the sudden flexibility from Beijing? The answer: the Communists will give the KMT and President Ma whatever they want so long as it helps keep the pro-independence opposition, the Democratic Progressive party, out of power.