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Taiwan & the United Nations - Sample Political Analysis Term Paper

This sample political science term paper examines a theory of international relations, and applies it to a current event. The essay examines how the United Nations' rejection of Taiwan's 2007 membership application can be analyzed through the lens of Liberalism, a political theory that stresses cooperation through the use of institutions. This political analysis essay uses extensive background research in order to successfully apply Liberalism to the event. It would be a useful reference for political science students who want to examine modern events in terms of academic theory.

Taiwan: The Rejected State - An examination of liberal principles

In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, defeated Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist regime. The latter retreated to the small island of Taiwan, where it has been in exile ever since. Taiwan held a seat on the United Nations until 1971, when it was expelled in favor of the People's Republic of China. Since then, the island has continually tried to regain its seat without success. On September 19th 2007, the United Nations once again rejected Taiwan's bid to join the international organization. One can use the precepts of Liberalism, specifically the use of institutions to settle conflicts and contain authoritarian states, to explain why Taiwan's latest bid failed.

According to the Reuters Article "Taiwan rejected in high-profile bid to join the UN", Patrick Worsnip writes that Taiwan's 2007 attempt was the "15th consecutive year that a bid by the island of 23 million people had met the same fate" (1). But unlike previous years, this attempt was the first time the island "applied under the name Taiwan instead of its formal title, Republic of China" (1). Such a distinction is important for Taiwan, which wants to be recognized as independent from its Communist neighbor. Because Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, other countries have helped Taiwan lobby the UN. According to the article, the "Marshall Islands representing [a group of 24 nations that recognize Taiwan] had asked for Taiwan's application to be considered by the new General Assembly session," (2) but the committee rejected the proposal of putting Taiwan's independence bid on the General Assembly's agenda this year. The committee explained that despite thorough analysis, it was legally impossible to accept the nation into the world body because of the prior regulations that expelled Taiwan in 1971. Even if Taiwan's attempt made it past the committee, it was doomed to failure from the start due to China's veto power on the Security Council and "overwhelming support in the General Assembly" (2). If one examines the precepts of Liberalism, it becomes clear why the UN acted like it did.

The modern world is in a state of anarchy - there are no institutions powerful enough to effectively regulate state behavior. Thus, in order to ensure their survival, states must either arm themselves to balance the power of other states or cooperate. Liberals believe that states should follow the latter solution. Liberalism, according to Charles Kegley Jr.'s book, "World Politics, Trend and Transformation" is "a paradigm predicted on the hope that the application of reason and universal ethics to international relations can lead to a more orderly, just, and cooperative world" and that "war can be policed by institutional reforms that empower international organization and law" (Kegley 25). Unlike realists, who believe that the anarchic system only leads to conflict and perpetual mistrust, liberals espouse an optimistic view of human nature: They believe that man is trustworthy and can work with others to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution. Liberals place high hopes on institutions like the United Nations, because they believe such organizations, not the disastrous alliance systems of the early 20th century are the key to attaining peace and stability in a world of anarchy.

Liberals believe that institutions can bring about world peace by preserving individual freedoms and fostering a "separate peace among liberal societies" (Art, Jervis 83) according to theorist Michael Doyle. Because nations are made up of numerous individuals, liberals explain that a nation cannot be free until their people are guaranteed certain rights. Doyle breaks down these rights into three basic freedoms. Citizens in liberal states should have "freedom from arbitrary authority," (84) meaning their speech, press, etc. cannot be restricted by the state. People should also have "those rights necessary to protect and promote the capacity for freedom" (84) such as equal access to health care and education as well as the need for self-expression. Finally, Doyle explains that the right to "democratic participation or representation, is necessary to guarantee the other two" (84). The state that satisfies the above qualifications is the type of state that liberals hope will eventually dominate the world system. Doyle expresses these hopes in what's known as the Democratic Peace Theory: "Even though liberal states have become involved in numerous wars with nonliberal states, constitutionally secure liberal states have yet to engage in war with one another" (85). Doyle's point is surprisingly accurate. For example, Germany and France, which constantly clashed against each other in two World Wars, have not fought a war amongst themselves since 1945. Liberals point to Germany's regime change as the catalyst for these actions - the state went from a fascist dictatorship to a constitutional republic, the epitome of a liberal state.

According to Doyle, liberal states do not fight wars with each other because "once the habit of respect for individual rights is engrained by republican government, wars would appear as the disaster to the people's welfare" (88). This aversion to war is rooted in traditional liberal theory espoused by philosophers like John Locke, in which government can only function because of the consent of the governed. Thus, "domestically just governments which rest on consent, presume foreign republics to be also consensual, just, and therefore deserving of accommodation" (89). Applying this idea to Germany and France, liberals would argue that the two countries would not fight against each other because people on both sides understand that they share the same democratic values. Instead of going to war, liberal states would use established institutions like the United Nations to settle conflict. While Doyle notes that liberalism does not entirely eliminate war, "the political bond of liberal rights and interests have proven a remarkably firm foundation for mutual nonaggression" (90). For liberals, the path to peace lies in liberal states, interacting in institutions that foster cooperation.

Woodrow Wilson was one of the 20th century's most important liberals because he attempted to apply aspects of the democratic peace theory - namely using institutions and spreading democratic values - to the post-World War I era. Wilson was disgusted by the horrors of the Great War, in which over 11 million people were killed, so he set out to establish a more peaceful world. He believed that authoritarian states were responsible for conflict, because they did not reflect the views of their people. Wilson advocated self-determination, wherein "indigenous nationalities would have the right to decide which authority would represent and rule them" (Kegley 140). He argued that if given the choice, countries would elect a democratic government that would be satisfied with its own boundaries and not threaten the sovereignty of other states. Aware that democratic countries rarely fought each other, Wilson embarked upon a plan for "making the world safe for democracy" (Kegley 28) and ridding the international system of authoritarian states. Wilson believed that once people could choose their own government, they could live together without war. To facilitate this goal, Wilson proposed a League of Nations, which he believed would respect the rights of individuals and provide an arena for nations to deal with each other non-violently. According to a course page maintained by Mount Holyoke College, Wilson, in a speech to the American people considered the League of Nations as the "only possible guarantee against war" (3). The League would work based on mutual cooperation. Wilson said that, "Every member of the League promises to respect and preserve as against external aggression" (3) in order to preserve a peaceful world order. In addition, League members would respect "the territorial integrity and existing political independence of every other member of the League" (3). The League would serve as an outlet for nations with aggressive behaviors and could enforce its will upon other nations. Wilson explained that nations which act "with arms in their hands to enforce [aggressive actions] then the council of the League shall advise what action is necessary" (3). Nations that chose to disregard the League's authority would suffer from an "absolute boycott" (2). Wilson believed these measures would be effective because after six months of political isolation, "I predict that they will have no stomach for war," (3) he said. Unfortunately, Wilson's ideals, while nobly intentioned, were difficult to put into practice.

The World War II era showed liberals that economic freedom facilitated political stability and liberal government. They thus turned to a Free Trade argument that has proven increasingly relevant with the rise of globalization. The Free Trade component of liberalism explains that economic interdependence among states leads to international cooperation. The key to this argument stems from the principle of comparative advantage, which states that "a state will benefit if it specializes in those goods it can produce comparatively cheaply and acquires through trade goods that it can only produce at a higher cost" (Kegley 305). In this scenario, both states benefit from the exchange and their standards of living rise. As states grow wealthier, they can better afford to handle the needs of their citizens, eradicating the roots of conflict like hunger and poverty. Doing so paves the way for the adoption of liberal, democratic freedoms that Doyle mentioned in the Democratic Peace Theory. Thus, "economically free countries . . . tend to be politically free, that is, ruled democratically with civil and legal ways for resolving conflicts, as opposed to economically repressed countries that also politically repress civil liberties" (332). Liberals rely on institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to encourage free trade and economic interdependence. While some argue that this interdependence threatens state sovereignty, liberals explain that free trade will only facilitate cooperation - if a state threatens to disrupt the economic status quo, states will come together to resolve the conflict in a civilized manner.

The World War II era showed liberals that economic freedom facilitated political stability and liberal government. They thus turned to a Free Trade argument that has proven increasingly relevant with the rise of globalization. The Free Trade component of liberalism explains that economic interdependence among states leads to international cooperation. The key to this argument stems from the principle of comparative advantage, which states that "a state will benefit if it specializes in those goods it can produce comparatively cheaply and acquires through trade goods that it can only produce at a higher cost" (Kegley 305). In this scenario, both states benefit from the exchange and their standards of living rise. As states grow wealthier, they can better afford to handle the needs of their citizens, eradicating the roots of conflict like hunger and poverty. Doing so paves the way for the adoption of liberal, democratic freedoms that Doyle mentioned in the Democratic Peace Theory. Thus, "economically free countries . . . tend to be politically free, that is, ruled democratically with civil and legal ways for resolving conflicts, as opposed to economically repressed countries that also politically repress civil liberties" (332). Liberals rely on institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to encourage free trade and economic interdependence. While some argue that this interdependence threatens state sovereignty, liberals explain that free trade will only facilitate cooperation - if a state threatens to disrupt the economic status quo, states will come together to resolve the conflict in a civilized manner.

Because the UN is a liberal institution, its main goal is to foster international cooperation and stability through diplomatic means. With this point in mind, one can see that the UN rejected Taiwan's request in order to maintain political stability in East-Asia. Even though Taiwan has a democratically elected government, it is still technically a part of China. After the 1949 civil war, China claimed Taiwan for its own and has recognized the island only as a rogue province. Allowing Taiwan to join the UN would essentially be granting it de facto independence and could throw all of China into turmoil. If Taiwan, a rogue province, were allowed independence, other parts of China might finally become fed up with Communist rule as well. Such an event has happened in the past - according to John C. Fairbank's "China, A New History" a 1911 revolt in one region of China "touched off the defection of most provinces, which declared their independence" ( Fairbank 250) from the ruling Qing Dynasty. A Chinese civil war would only upset the relative peace in East-Asia and could even spread beyond the Eastern Hemisphere. To protect its government, Beijing has prepared for the worst - the article explains that China has "threatened to attack [Taiwan] if it declares independence" (1). Because the United States has pledged support for the island, conflict over Taiwan could escalate into a series of devastating economic disruptions or military engagements. Liberalism calls for cooperation, not conflict and regrettably letting Taiwan into the UN will only cause the latter.

The hope for Taiwan then, lies in the political liberalization of China. One could argue that a more liberal China would be willing to cooperate with Taiwan concerning issues of independence. The Free Trade component of liberalism suggests that economic reforms could help raise China's standards of living and eventually pave the way for true political reform. Indeed, China appears to be slowly moving in this direction. Fairbank explains that in the late 1970's, China's leaders began to reform aspects of the country's sluggish economy. He explains that these reforms were "accomplished with relatively little disruption to everyday life and without the chaos and famines that punctuated the first eighty years of the twentieth century in China" (Fairbank 451). As China slowly modernized, its economy began to resemble a free-market system. State-owned enterprises were forced to adopt modern corporate models and collective farms were abolished in the countryside. In addition, China created Special Economic Zones that were less regulated and open to foreign investors. These economic zones allowed China to develop its comparative advantage of labor and become one of the world's chief exporters of consumer goods. In the 21st century, exports to foreign countries have made China increasingly prosperous and its citizens can now afford luxury items that were previously unavailable. Liberals argue that China's new place in the global economy will cause it to become cooperative because it does not want to cause potential trade conflicts. All of these events may ultimately lead to greater political reform within China itself. Even though the Communist Party still runs the government unopposed, Fairbank notes that its "command over its many constituencies has been weakened" due to the "move to the market, the opening to the outside world, and particularly the new communications technologies" (450). Ultimately, one may see China's citizens desiring self-determination and representative government. Should China take this revolutionary step, liberals may see a world closer to their envisioned Democratic Peace.

Liberals offer a vision of hope in the nuclear age - if states trade and cooperate with each other, mankind will be better off. While the presence of anarchy means there will always be a bit of uncertainty in state interactions, liberals believe that humanity's inherent goodness will guide states to a better future. In Taiwan's case, its rejection is a mere setback - patience and trust in the world community will ultimately result in the international recognition it rightfully deserves.

Works Cited
Worsnip, Patrick. "Taiwan rejected in high-profile bid to join UN." Reuters 2007. Reuters Group PLC 5 November 2007
  www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN1926872820070919
 
Kegley, Jr., Charles. World Politics Trend and Transformation.
  Behmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.
 
Doyle, Michael W. "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs." International Politics Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues. Eds. Robert J. Art, Robert Jervis. New York: Pearson Education, 2007. 83-91.
 
"Woodrow Wilson: Appeal for Support of the League of Nations." 2006. Mount
  Holyoke College. 5 November 2007.
 
Fairbank, John C. China, A New History. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006.
 
2,489 words, 10 pages
 

 
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