Taiwan's Foreign Relations in the Age of 
Global Interdependence

in Perspectives on Taiwan's democratization

(May 2002)


Lo Chih-cheng
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Soochow University

In 2000, Taiwan entered a new era of democratization, when it completed the first change of governing party on Taiwan. The new administration has not only demonstrated innovative domestic policies, but has also proposed new perspectives and approaches to foreign affairs. 

During his inaugural address, President Chen Shui-bian stated that Taiwan would return to the international human rights system, an objective not only reflecting current international trends, but also necessary for the continued development of democracy and human rights on Taiwan. Thus, the new administration's foreign policy priority was no longer realpolitik or selfish national interests, but rather, principled values and idealism.

President Chen's foreign policy is based upon two primary themes: democratic peace and global governance. He is convinced that the more democratic Taiwan becomes, the better its national security can be assured and the higher its position in the international community can be elevated. Taiwan is dedicated to promoting international democratization and human rights, because the conditions for world peace and prosperity will likewise become more favorable as democratization continues to spread and deepen. 

Global interdependence not only prevents Taiwan from isolating itself from the international community, but also prevents the international community from rejecting Taiwan's participation. Although Taiwan's channels for joining the international community are limited by external forces, Taiwan will particiapte in various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). 

Taiwan will use humanitarian aid, economic and trade relations, development assistance, environmental protection cooperation, and cultural exchanges to connect its society with the world, while participating in global affairs and expanding international opportunities. It will also repay the support and assistance of the international community and contribute to the objective of effective global governance.

Accordingly, President Chen began his "Trip of Democracy, Diplomacy, and Friendship" soon after taking office, successfully proclaiming Taiwan's democratic achievements while strengthening friendships and relations with Taiwan's diplomatic partners. President Chen won the 2001 Prize for Freedom from Liberal International, which not only recognized the accomplishments of the people on Taiwan in the areas of freedom, democracy, and human rights, but also signified international support for those efforts. The award encouraged Taiwan to further promote democracy and human rights through diplomacy. 

After years of hard work and with the great expectations of our citizens, Taiwan finally joined the World Trade Organization in January 2002, giving Taiwan the opportunity to participate equally with other nations and contribute its experiences to international trade and economics. 

Taiwan's dedication and achievements in human rights have also won worldwide recognition and support. Thus, as Taiwan is currently applying to join the World Health Organization (WHO), we have received significant support from the US government, the European Parliament, the European Medical Association, and the World Medical Association. Our exclusion from the WHO not only denies international human rights to Taiwan's people, but also challenges the concept of global governance.

Diplomacy is an extension of internal affairs; thus, Taiwan's democratic development and the vitality of its society are the most valuable assets for promoting foreign relations. The ROC's devotion to democracy and human rights, the proposal to substitute diplomatic service for military service, the devoted work of many diplomatic volunteers, and the successes of joining or establishing substantive relationships with NGOs are all expressions of Taiwan's revised perspectives and new approaches in foreign affairs. 

In the near future, the pragmatic and innovative approaches of President Chen's new administration will not only facilitate Taiwan's international relations, but also encourage the international community to welcome Taiwan's participation and contributions to world peace, prosperity, and stability.