Political reality slapped the government opposition who championed a separate UN recognition rally, after previously stating support for a one China policy. Politics is hard at work. The people of Taiwan support a seat at the UN in vast numbers and the rival Chinese Nationalist Party (KPT) was caught flatfooted on a rise, nay, wave of popular independence sentiment. President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was on political life support, until he made a bold move for the United Nations recognition and ongoing appeals for independence.
China is not at all happy that Taiwan is vocal and viral in marketing their demands for independence. This is all before their 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the family food fight is playing out on the international stage with many of their colorful protest signs purposefully written in English.
What a pickle the United States is in. US diplomats want Taiwan to pipe down so the Taiwanese president ratcheted up his criticism of the US. Taiwan is still smarting over China's ability to keep Taiwan out of the World Health Organization (WHO). They made a point of bringing up the tragic example of a contagious TB patient allowed to travel to Nanjing, when the medical experts tried to alert, they were 'unrecognized'. China had to sit in New York while the Taiwan president made his pitch to the UN with China bloviating as to why it is not all possible as the protesters took to the street in the hundreds of thousands. All that was missing in this was the popcorn. Sadly, this is going to continue to escalate and the USA's moral standing to craft dispute resolutions has a jumbo hole in reputation and superpower authority that is not fixable until January 2009.
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said last month that a referendum would be a "step towards" a declaration of independence - something Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, says it will not accept.,
Another senior State Department official warned this week that the referendum, slated to coincide with presidential elections next March, could be the source of "major tensions or even conflict" with China.
No one believes war is imminent, but the United States is making it clear it prefers Chen to lower the tone so that it is not dragged into a scrap between its democratic ally on the one hand, and an increasingly important trading and political entity on the other.
Undeterred, Chen has taken every opportunity recently to press the island's case for entering the world body - this time in its own right. The referendum will also officially refer to the island as Taiwan - thereby serving as a plebiscite for a de facto name change, something China also opposes.
To understand the history of the island nation of Taiwan, Jonathon Manthorpe wrote of the geography, epic struggles and the tenacious will to overcome obstacles that marks the Taiwanese people. His book is entitled, Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan. Denny Roy offers a paperback version of his Taiwan: A Political History.