New Delhi: “The strained relations between Taiwan and Beijing affects the international contact of Taiwan. It obstructs the opportunities of Taiwanese cities to interact with the world and any sort of international engagement”, said Kuan-Ting Chen Chief Executive Officer of Taiwan NextGen Foundation.
He was speaking at Global Taipei Dialogue XIV on Smart Cities and Taiwan’s International Space organised by Go Smart.
There is geopolitical uncertainty over the status of Taiwan in international spaces. The relations between Taiwan and Beijing are strained. These relations have been strained since the Chinese civil war in 1949 when some nationalist forces opposing Mao and his communist party fled the country and established an independent country in Taiwan.
There are various examples where Taiwan is not recognized as an independent nation on global platforms. He gave examples of how Taiwan is excluded from various United Nations (UN) programs.
He added that Taiwan’s exclusion from the UN framework resulted in being prevented from participating in UN Economic and Social Affairs (UN-ECOSOC), UN-Habitat. Their frameworks are longstanding pillars of city diplomacy.
Chen said, “Taiwanese cities can provide help to deal with issues like public health, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), smart solutions, climate crisis, diversity, inclusion. They have contributed actively to help international city networks to tackle these problems.”
Subnational diplomacy or para-diplomacy in international relations means that a region or federal state can promote their trade and interest as part of cross-border contact.
He said that Taiwan uses subnational diplomacy to build stronger connections with overseas partners, and develop a network.
“Following subnational diplomacy bypasses the sovereignty constraint and yields major economic benefits”, he added.
Taiwan has gained international recognition for its technology and it is considered a technological hub. It has also played an essential role in the semiconductors manufacturing industry. It is a highly urbanised island nation that is a leader of smart city technology.
In the Smart City Index 2021 published by Institute for Management Development (IMD) Business School, Switzerland. Taiwan’s Taipei city was ranked second in Asia and fourth globally in developing sustainable, smart cities that embrace technology, health, ecological, societal issues while developing the city.
He highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic showed the vulnerability of pandemics to urban areas and how they also bring an opportunity to take transformative action towards establishing cities that are more just, resilient, and sustainable, that balance the use of technology with privacy protection and transparency.
He also said that positioned at the forefront of equitable post-COVID recovery, cities ought to recognize the importance of international connections and good practice exchanges in achieving their policy and development goals.
He advocates the Taiwan model be used for developing smart cities around the globe. “In Taiwan, city-to-city exchanges have constituted a key pillar of internationalising the “Taiwan Model,” which serves as a strong basis for the expansion of subnational ties”, said Chen. He said that there are restrictions to subnational diplomacy of Taiwan and the Taiwan model won’t be enough to solve many problems.
He raised questions, “By capitalising on the momentum of the “Taiwan Model”, to what extent can city-to-city cooperation help Taiwan strengthen ties with the international community and thus help decrease its isolation? To what extent are lessons from trans-Pacific city diplomacy applicable in other regions? How can city officials highlight the value of city diplomacy to reluctant city council members and denizens?”